Tag Archive for 'Federal Highway Trust Fund'

Caterpillar Calling for A Long Term Highway Bill

Doug Oberhelman

Doug Oberhelman

Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc, wrote an opinion piece for CNBC today calling for Congress to solve America’s congestion problems and invest in our infrastructure with a long-term highway bill.

Oberhelman cited a report issued by the Business Roundtable (BRT) that showed a strong U.S. public commitment to invest in world-class physical infrastructure in the mid-20th century. “That helped propel the United States to become the world’s strongest economy. Since then, investment has tapered off or flat lined, while demand for high-performing, high capacity systems has grown,” he wrote. “Infrastructure is a key component of any competitiveness measure, and by any measure the United States is falling far behind.”

Read the opinion piece on CNBC.

Summer Has Ended … and so will the most recent (34th) extension of the highway bill

Summer Has Ended

Visitor & guest editorial staffer.

Visitor & guest editorial staffer.

By Greg Sitek

… and so will the most recent (34th) extension of the highway bill

In a Recent American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) newsletter the civil engineering group noted:

Summer comes to an end next week as Congress returns to the Capitol after a five-week recess. Deadlines will be the theme this fall, with the first being the Oct. 1 funding deadline to keep the government open. The second important deadline for ASCE is Oct. 29, when MAP-21, the surface transportation bill, expires. With a D+ cumulative GPA, the topic of America’s infrastructure should be at the top of their to-do lists. Congress has several opportunities to address some of the nation’s infrastructure needs in the coming weeks. Here’s what to watch:

  1. Transportation

Before the U.S. Senate adjourned for August recess, they passed the DRIVE Act, a six-year surface transportation bill.  The DRIVE Act would end the current cycle of short-term program extensions and increase federal funding for surface transportation programs.  The U.S. House of Representatives has until a new deadline of October 29 to act to pass their own multi-year bill before the current law expires. ASCE has been focused on communicating with House members on the need to act quickly and pass a long-term bill. You can help by contacting your House members and urging them to #FixTheTrustFund.

  1. Appropriations for Federal Infrastructure Programs

So far this year, the House has only passed six of 12 annual appropriations bills and the Senate has not yet passed a single one. There is an Oct. 1 deadline to complete this year’s appropriation. Among the major dilemmas holding up the appropriations process are disagreements over the overall funding amounts for the federal government, policy riders that bog down spending bills and fundamental differences on what level to fund federal environmental, healthcare and military programs.

While it’s difficult enough for Congress to fund popular established bipartisan programs like the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving funds (which are facing 23% cuts), newer programs, like the Levee Safety Initiative, have not received any funding since the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA) passed. If these programs do not receive appropriations, then the progress made by creating them becomes stagnant and no real progress is made in addressing the infrastructure the legislation aimed to improve.

And the ARTBA newsletter had the following to say:

On Sept. 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the document they had created. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is using the 228th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution signing to remind Congress that Article One, Section Eight, makes support for transportation infrastructure investment a core federal government responsibility. It’s time, ARTBA says, for Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund.

“It only took the Founding Fathers 209 days—from a call for action on Feb. 21 to the signing ceremony on Sept. 17—to draft, debate and endorse the U.S. Constitution, one of mankind’s greatest documents,” ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane says. “In contrast, why have our elected leaders taken over 2,000 days since 2008 trying to figure out how to permanently address the Highway Trust Fund revenue problem?”

Ruane says members of Congress should heed and respond to the words of U.S. Constitution signatories Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and make expanding transportation infrastructure investment a federal priority to support economic growth and improve the nation’s competitiveness.


Hamilton 66dcce51-dd63-45b4-a5db-96ea411c41f4Hamilton said: “The improvement of the roads would be a measure universally popular. None can be more so. For this purpose a regular plan should be adopted, coextensive with the Union, to be successfully executed, and a fund should be appropriated sufficient… To provide roads and bridges is within the direct purview of the Constitution.”



Madioson f26c5ec4-7ea9-4737-8ac8-5706d29e464cMadison noted: “Among the means of advancing the public interest, the occasion is a proper one for recalling the attention of Congress to the great importance of establishing throughout the country the roads and canals which can best be executed under the national authority. No objects within the circle of political economy so richly repay the expense bestowed on them.”



Franklin 8cd18e8a-bb5b-4723-b5f9-76bbb64a543aFranklin challenged legislators: “And have we not all these taxes too… and our provincial or public taxes besides? And over and above, have we not new roads to make, new bridges to build… and a number of things to do that your fathers have done for you, and which you inherit from them, but which we are obliged to pay for out of our present labor?”



Washington b5580c6c-4743-465b-835d-51db410776e1And George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention, said: “The credit, the saving, and the convenience of this country all require that our great roads leading from one public place to another should be straightened and established by law… To me, these things seem indispensably necessary.”

With election-mania already in motion, gathering momentum with every news cast, what do you think the prospects of a worthwhile highway bill are?


This article appears in the October 2015 issues of the ACP magazines

Construction Input Prices Trend Lower in Jul

CEU2“Key input prices fell or were flat in all but one category in July and further downward pressure on input costs is likely to be reflected in next month’s report.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

PPI July 2015Prices for inputs to construction industries declined 0.1 percent in July after increasing 0.2 percent in June, according to the Aug. 14 producer price index release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Year-over-year prices were down 3 percent in July and have been down on an annual basis for each of the past eight months. Prices of inputs to nonresidential construction industries declined 0.3 percent on a monthly basis and are down 3.9 percent on a yearly basis.

“Key input prices fell or were flat in all but one category in July and it is important to note that further downward pressure on input costs is likely to be reflected in next month’s report, as well,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

“The state of affairs today is unprecedented,” said Basu. “Nonresidential construction spending has been recovering robustly in the U.S. in recent months—up more than 11 percent on a year-over-year basis. On top of that, the multifamily building boom continues in most major U.S. metropolitan areas.

“All things being equal, these circumstances should correspond with rising construction materials prices,” said Basu. “But as a reflection of how global the economy has become, America’s nonresidential construction recovery is taking place in the context of collapsing commodity prices. The latest round of commodity price decreases has been spawned by softening growth in China and ongoing increases in production of key inputs worldwide, including oil. However, this form of deflation should not be troubling to contractors. If anything, it will tend to boost profit margins for the average contractor, though falling commodity prices do not represent good news for construction firms heavily invested in oil and natural gas segments. These falling prices also imply slower increases in interest rates going forward, which will help extend the ongoing nonresidential construction recovery.”

Below are the key input prices for the month and the year.

  • Prices for plumbing fixtures remained flat on a monthly basis and are up 1.2 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Softwood lumber prices expanded 6.2 percent in July, but are 3.7 percent lower than a year ago.
  • Concrete product prices fell 0.1 percent in July, but are up 3.8 percent on a yearly basis.
  • Crude energy materials prices declined 6.2 percent in July and are down 37.8 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Fabricated structural metal product prices fell 0.7 percent for the month and have declined 0.4 percent on a year-over-year basis.
  • Natural gas prices declined 1.9 percent in July and are 38.4 percent lower than the same time one year ago.
  • Iron and steel prices were down 1.1 percent in July and are down 15 percent from the same time last year.
  • Prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing, and siding fell 0.1 percent for the month and are down 0.4 percent on a year-ago basis.
  • Steel mill products prices fell 1 percent for the month and are 13.2 percent lower than one year ago.
  • Crude petroleum prices fell 12.3 percent in July and are down 48.8 percent from the same time one year ago.
  • Nonferrous wire and cable prices fell 1.3 percent on a monthly basis and are down 5.2 percent on a yearly basis.

To view the previous PPI report, click here

Statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs

ee0d071a-4431-491a-ae5f-0d9154114faeStatement Relating to Senate

Passage of the DRIVE Act

The following is a statement from Transportation Construction Coalition Co-chairs Pete Ruane, president & CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America regarding the Senate’s approval of a multi-year highway/transit bill:

“On behalf of the 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), we applaud the Senate for passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill that would guarantee real growth in federal highway and public transportation investment over the next three years.  The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act would also assist state long-term transportation planning by distributing six years of contract authority.

“Senate Majority Leader McConnell, Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Inhofe and EPW Committee Ranking Member Boxer demonstrated exemplary leadership in finding the common ground necessary to earn overwhelming bipartisan support for the longest duration surface transportation bill approved by either chamber since 2005.  Furthermore, they accomplished this feat before the current short-term extension of the highway and transit programs expires.

“Today’s Senate vote on the DRIVE Act and the expected enactment of a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs by July 31 should bring to a close once and for all claims that Congress needs “more time” to develop a long-term reauthorization bill and Highway Trust Fund solution.  For more than a year members of both parties and chambers have used this rationalization for kicking the reauthorization can down the road.  The time for any further short-term extensions is over.

“We appreciate House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster’s recent statement reiterating his commitment to producing a multi-year surface transportation bill soon.  Achieving this goal, however, will require House Republican leaders and the Ways & Means Committee to develop a bipartisan plan to generate the resources necessary to grow highway and public transportation investment.  This must be a priority focus over the next six weeks.

“Members of the TCC will spend the August recess making sure all House members hear from their constituents about the need for the House to pass a meaningful, long-term surface transportation bill in September to ensure a final measure can be enacted before the latest short-term extension expires.”

Highway Bill Happenings…

The House approved a three-month extension before leaving for its summer vacation. That was yesterday.

Today: Senate approves six-year highway bill.

THE HILL Reports:

The Senate passed its long-term highway bill Thursday, though their work on federal infrastructure funding isn’t over.

Senators voted 65-34 to approve the six-year bill, which funds federal highway and infrastructure projects for three years.

Democrats were split on the measure, with most of the caucus’s leadership voting against the bill negotiated by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Fifteen Republican senators, including three 2016 presidential candidates, bucked McConnell and voted against the proposal.

The legislation also faces an uncertain future with the House, which has committed to passing its own long-term highway bill after the August recess.

In the meantime, the House has approved a three-month stopgap measure that the Senate is expected to approve later on Thursday.

That legislation also addresses a budget shortfall at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

McConnell on Thursday cast the short-term measure as buying time for the House to put together its own long-term highway bill.

“The multi-year nature of this legislation is one of its most critical components. It’s also something the House and Senate are now united on,” he said. “We all want the House to have the space it needs to develop its own bill, because we all want to work out the best possible legislation … in conference.”

Another hurdle for the bill with the House is that it would extend the Export-Import Bank for five years. Conservatives in the lower chamber want to prevent the bank’s charter from being renewed.

The legislation would be used to pay for about $47 billion of funding for the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund. That funding accounts for only the first three years of the legislation. Under the Senate bill, senators would have to determine by 2018 how to pay for the full six years.

In an effort to keep McConnell’s pledge to not increase the gas tax, the Senate’s bill includes a package of payfors including revenue from reducing interest rates paid by the Federal Reserve to large banks and selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, normally used to prevent energy crises.

But there’s more…

Senate sends three-month highway bill to Obama

The Senate on Thursday approved an $8 billion extension of federal transportation funding, sending it to President Obama’s desk with just one day to go before the nation’s road and transit spending expires.

The bill, which extends infrastructure spending until Oct. 29, passed in a 914 vote, pushing the debate into the fall.

Obama, who has advocated for long-term extension of highway funding, is expected to sign the patch to prevent an interruption in funding during the busy summer construction season.

The vote Thursday came after the Senate passed its preferred fix, a six-year highway bill negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

House Republicans refused to take up that bill and left town on Wednesday, forcing the Senate to accept the three-month stopgap.

Republican leaders in the Senate sought to downplay the squabbling between the chambers as they punted the highway debate to the fall.

“We all want the House to have the space to develop its own bill, because we all want to work out the best possible legislation for the American people in a conference later this year, “McConnell said ahead of the vote.

McConnell touted the earlier vote to approve three years of funding as a victory.

“Many thought we’d never get there, but we have indeed,” he said, saying the Senate’s long-term highway bill “doesn’t raises taxes by a penny.”

“This is more than just another accomplishment for the Senate. It’s a win for our country because the bill would cut red tape and streamline regulation. It would modernize infrastructure and advance research and innovation,” McConnell said.

Democrats in the Senate complained about the House’s rejection of its long-term highway bill even as the chamber approved the temporary patch.

“This has been a long and winding road to get the point where we can pass a transportation bill that is a very good bill, that is very bipartisan,” said Boxer, who is retiring from the Senate in 2017.

“This person says, ‘I don’t like the process.’ And this one says, ‘I don’t like the pay-fors,’ ” Boxer continued. “But we know if we run into a construction worker who is unemployed and we say, ‘Well, we didn’t vote for this because we didn’t like the process,’ he would say, or she would say, ‘I need a paycheck.’ ”

The fight over road funding has cut across both parties, with Senate and House Republicans pitted against one another when it comes the idea — pushed strongly by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — of trying to negotiate a highway bill paid for by tax reform.

House Republicans earlier this month approved a five-month extension of highway funding, seeking to buy time for negotiations with the White House over a long-term bill that would be paid for with changes to tax policy.

But rather than take up the five-month bill, McConnell quickly brought his long-term plan to the floor over the objections of Democrats who complained they did not have enough time to read the measure.

Republicans leaders in the Senate predicted the House would be amenable to their long-term bill once lawmakers return from their summer recess.

“I think the House will end up taking up our bill,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, predicted ahead of the Thursday votes.

“In fact, I think a lot of the staff people are working on that right now over on the side,” he continued.

Inhofe said it was important for the Senate to have also passed the long-term bill to “encourage” the House to act.

“If we don’t pass the DRIVE [Developing Roadway Infrastructure for a Vibrant Economy] Act out of this chamber, then [what] we’re doing is reinforcing current law,” he said. “What is current law? Current law is short-term extensions.”

Congress is grappling with a funding shortfall for transportation that is estimated to be around $16 billion per year. Since 2005, lawmakers have not passed a transportation bill that lasted longer than two years.

Passage of the three-month highway bill means that the Export-Import Bank’s charter will remain expired through the August recess. The three-month bill sent to Obama on Thursday does not include language on Ex-Im.

Aside from the highway extension, the temporary patch includes a provision allowing the Veterans Affairs Department to shift $3 billion within the agency to shore up a budget shortfall so hospitals and other facilities don’t close in August, aides said.

The legislation also would ensure that veterans with service-related disabilities are able to use health saving accounts.

Bottomline: Highway Bill Patch Number 34 is in place until October 29, 2015. Between now and then the House has a to accept, reject, modify or refine the Senate’s 6-year proposed bill.