Tag Archive for 'Highway Bill'

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ASCE Reports: USDOT Announces Plans to Change Payment Schedule to States Starting August 1

{08d819bc-1d22-4dd2-80f4-4bea43d54eb4}_ASCE_GovernmentRelations_WashingtonOn Tuesday,July 1, 2014,  President Obama addressed a group of transportation advocates, including ASCE’s President Randy Over, P.E., F.ASCE, near Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. where he urged Congress to act to prevent insolvency of the federal highway program.  “I haven’t heard a good reason for why they (Congress) haven’t acted,” Obama said.  “It’s not like they’re busy with other stuff,” the president said in reference to the fact that the 113th Congress has passed fewer bills than any other in modern history.  Next week, the House and Senate are scheduled to convene while tax committee leaders negotiate on a bipartisan solution to ensure highway funding for the remainder of the calendar year.

That same day, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced that beginning August 1, due to a lack of revenue in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), reimbursements to states will be provided every two weeks instead of the current twice daily schedule.  The USDOT announcement was made as the HTF nears insolvency.  When the fund’s reserves dip below $4 billion, as is expected on August 1, the department will alter its cash management in a way that they view as most prudent and equitable for the states.  “There is no good option when we’re talking about a trust fund that is running out of dollars,” Foxx told reporters Tuesday morning.  USDOT cites that on average states will see a 28 percent drop in federal transportation dollars due to delayed payments.  This piecemeal approach to reimbursements may put many current projects on hold, slow down the advertisement of new projects, or even cancel proposed projects.

The President and Administration officials have pledged to continue trying to help Congress identify a funding solution that can be signed into law by the August 1 deadline which is also when Congress adjourns for five weeks.  The Society has been urging Congress for months to identify a long-term, sustainable solution to fund the nation’s surface transportation program and avoid a summer program catastrophe.  The Society urges all members to tell their lawmakers to move quickly on a solution. Visit fixthetrustfund.org to learn more about how you can get involved

ASCE Reports: Pennsylvania has highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in country

{08d819bc-1d22-4dd2-80f4-4bea43d54eb4}_ASCE_GovernmentRelations_WashingtonLast week, four Sections of ASCE from across Pennsylvania released a new Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure giving 16 grades for the state’s key infrastructure areas. The Report Card gave 7 Ds, 6 Cs, and only 3 Bs showing the significant needs facing Pennsylvania’s infrastructure and highlighting the economic consequences of waiting to tackle these pressing issues. The release events across the state drew hundreds of people who want to see Pennsylvania’s infrastructure improve just as much as the team of over 50 experts who compiled the report.  Help us keep up the momentum by sharing this new and Report Card with those you know and work with in Pennsylvania!

Threats to Pavement Quality and a Solution…

Threats to Pavement QualityThreats to Pavement Quality2

 

THE HILL Reports: Feds to cut road payments at peak summer driving season

By Keith Laing

The federal government will start reducing road and transit payments in August, potentially leaving states scrambling to cover the gap.

The cuts are expected to begin in the first week of August, when there will only be about $4 billion left in the Highway Trust Fund, according to the Department of Transportation.

The trust fund is supposed to reimburse states for their expenses, but DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said the trust fund will have trouble doing so next month, just as many families hit the roads for summer vacations.

He said his department will stop reimbursing states when the bills come.

“States will be paid not as they sent their bills in, but every two weeks as money from the gas tax comes in,” Foxx said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “This is we believe the most equitable approach, but there is to be very clear, no good option when we’re talking about a trust fund that is running short in supply of dollars.”The announcement comes with Congress at a standstill over approving new funding for the nation’s highways and bridges. The Highway Trust Fund, which is supported by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax, is set to go bust in August.

Business groups back increasing the gas tax to fund work on aging U.S. roads and infrastructure, and two senators in June offered support for a gas tax to pay for highway projects.

But overall, there has been little interest in Congress for raising the tax, and lawmakers have struggled to come up with other funding.

The gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and cars are becoming more fuel efficient every year, exacerbating the funding gap.

Foxx said Tuesday that the Obama administration has given lawmakers ample warning about the transportation funding problem.

“We began in January with a ticker on our website that basically gave the public an up-to-the-minute view of how the Highway Trust Fund is performing,” he said. “At that time we predicted that the Highway Trust Fund could run dry in August of this year. … As we predicted back in January, the time’s almost up.”

Foxx added that the reductions in transportation payments could become even more severe if Congress allows the gas tax authorization to expire in the fall.

“If we get to Sept. 30 and there hasn’t been a funding solution and there hasn’t been a reauthorization extension at a minimum, we will not be able to spend money even if we have it,” he said. “That’s another part of the crisis.”

Foxx and President Obama have pushed Congress to approve a four-year, $302 billion proposal to address the transportation funding gap. Obama proposal relies on using approximately $150 billion from a corporate tax reform package that is unlikely to be approved by lawmakers this year.

Foxx said Tuesday that the Obama administration was open to other ideas for paying for the infrastructure spending, if Congress could reach an agreement on one.

“If Congress comes up with a different combination, another formulation to get there, we’ve said that we’ll listen to what they have to say, but they have to speak with one voice,” he said.

The House and Senate have each put forward proposals to extend transportation funding in the short-term, with the upper chamber suggesting an $9 billion bill to carry infrastructure spending through the end of the year and the House proposing tying a year’s worth of funding to cut backs at the U.S. Postal Service.

Foxx urged lawmakers on Tuesday to focus on a longer-term fix, however.

“As a country, we’ve got to stop playing small ball with transportation because it is so critical,” he said.

Transportation advocates have pushed lawmakers to increase the gas tax for the first time in two decades to close the shortfall, but Foxx said Tuesday that he did not think lawmakers would be willing to increase the amount paid by drivers in the middle of an election year.

“I’ve had plenty of [conversations with] Republicans and Democrats on both the House and the Senate side,” Foxx said. “One of the messages I’ve gotten loud and clear is that many of them don’t want to raise rates and many of them don’t want to increase taxes. Our pay-for is a way that helps us accomplish substantially more investment in transportation without running against those two principles.”

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/211056-feds-reducing-highway-payments-as-funding-push-stalls#ixzz36F27pPZB
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TRIP Report: MODERNIZING OKLAHOMA’S TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM:

Progress and Challenges in Providing Safe, Efficient and Well-Maintained Roads, Highways and Bridges 

Executive Summary

Oklahoma’s extensive system of roads, highways and bridges provides the state’s residents, visitors and businesses with a high level of mobility. This transportation system forms the backbone that supports the state’s economy and contributes to the provision of a high quality of life in Oklahoma.

A decade ago, Oklahoma had significant road, highway and bridge deterioration and high rates of traffic fatalities.  But beginning with legislative action in 2005 and continuing through state legislative action as recent as 2013, Oklahoma has undertaken a sustained commitment to upgrade the condition and efficiency of its roads, highways and bridges and to reduce traffic fatalities by modernizing its highway system.

By making this effort, Oklahoma has been able to reverse the deterioration of major roads, highways and bridges and has begun to improve traffic safety in the state by modernizing urban and rural roads and highways.  These efforts have resulted in a large reduction in the number of state-maintained deficient bridges, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of thousands of miles of roadways, and the completion of safety improvements that are saving numerous lives each year.

But the state still has far to go to meet its initial goals through 2021 for the reconstruction and modernization of the state highway system, additional improvements in road and bridge conditions, and further traffic safety enhancements.  Achieving the state’s goals for a modern, well-maintained and safe transportation system will require “staying the course” with Oklahoma’s current transportation program and doubling down on this effort by proceeding with further transportation improvements well through the next decade.

Population and economic growth have placed increased demands on Oklahoma’s major roads and highways, leading to mounting wear and tear on the transportation system. 

  • Oklahoma’s population reached approximately 3.8 million in 2012, a 21 percent increase since 1990, when the state’s population was approximately 3.1 million.  Oklahoma has approximately 2.4 million licensed drivers.
  • Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Oklahoma increased 45 percent from 1990 to 2012 – from 33.1 billion VMT in 1990 to 47.9 billion VMT in 2012, higher than the rate of VMT growth nationally, which increased by 38 percent since 1990.
  • By 2030, vehicle travel in Oklahoma is projected to increase by another 25 percent.
  • From 1990 to 2012, Oklahoma’s gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 59 percent, when adjusted for inflation

Oklahoma has been able to rehabilitate approximately a quarter of state-maintained roads and highways since 2006 as the state continues to reconstruct and modernize its highways.  While further improvements in roadway structural conditions, safety design and capacity are planned for the state’s major roads, Oklahoma will continue to face a challenge in maintaining surface pavement conditions and the need to further modernize its highway system.    

  • Since 2006, Oklahoma has made significant progress in improving the overall quality and condition of its 12,265 miles of state-maintained roadways, largely due to the increased funding approved by the state legislature beginning in 2005.
  • Since 2006, 301 miles of Oklahoma’s 673 miles of Interstate were rehabilitated or reconstructed.
  • Since 2006, Oklahoma has resurfaced, rehabilitated or reconstructed more than 3,000 miles of non-Interstate state roads and highways.
  • Currently, 4,600 miles of Oklahoma’s state-maintained roads lack paved shoulders, reducing safety and limiting capacity on these routes. The state’s current transportation plan calls for improving 567 miles of these two-lane roads, including the addition of paved shoulders, by 2021, making these routes safer and more efficient.
  • Currently 11.5 percent of state-maintained roads and highways in Oklahoma have pavements in deficient condition and this share is anticipated to increase to 12.2 percent in 2021.

The number of Oklahoma’s state-maintained structurally deficient bridges has been cut in half in recent years as a result of accelerated bridge replacement and rehabilitation efforts that were made possible by additional funding provided by the state legislature. By 2021 the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) anticipates reducing the number of state-maintained structurally deficient bridges to near zero. 

  • A total of 468 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 state-maintained bridges were rated structurally deficient in 2013. This represents a significant reduction since 2004 when 1,168 state-maintained bridges were structurally deficient.  From 2006 through 2013 ODOT replaced or rehabilitated 823 bridges.
  • By 2021, the state expects to replace or provide major rehabilitation to 924 state-maintained bridges, reducing the number of state-maintained, structurally deficient bridges to near zero.
  • As a result of the significant improvement in Oklahoma’s state-maintained bridges the state’s overall share of structurally deficient bridges, including locally maintained bridges, that dropped from 27 percent in 2006  (the highest share nationally)  to 18 percent in 2013 (the fifth highest share nationally).
  • A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks and emergency services vehicles. Structurally deficient bridges are safe for travel and are maintained and monitored on a regular basis by the agencies responsible for their upkeep.

While Oklahoma has made significant safety improvements to its roadways in recent years, the state’s traffic fatality rate is still significantly higher than the national average.  Improved safety features on Oklahoma’s roads and highways are needed to decrease traffic fatalities and serious crashes in the state. It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes.  

  • Between 2008 and 2012, 3,559 people were killed in traffic crashes in Oklahoma, an average of 712 fatalities per year.
  • Oklahoma’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.48 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2012 is 31 percent higher than the national average of 1.13.
  • The traffic fatality rate in Oklahoma declined from 1.57 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2006 to 1.48 fatalities in 2012 – a six percent decrease. During that time, the national fatality rate decreased 20 percent from 1.41 to 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • The traffic fatality rate on Oklahoma’s non-Interstate rural roads in 2012 was more than two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads and highways in the state – 2.52 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel compared to 0.92.
  • Since 2006, 635 miles of cable median barriers have been completed or are under construction on Oklahoma’s divided high-speed roads. These barriers have dramatically reduced the number of fatalities resulting from crossover collisions. From 2007 to 2012, the number of fatalities due to crossover collisions in Oklahoma dropped from 39 to six.
  • Nearly a third – 31 percent – of miles of state-maintained highways in Oklahoma (3,862 of 12,265 miles) are rated as either critical or inadequate for safety, based on an evaluation of safety features such as passing opportunities, adequate sight distances, existence of paved shoulders, recovery areas for errant vehicles and the severity of hills and curves.
  • By 2021, the miles of state-maintained highways in Oklahoma that are rated either critical or inadequate for safety are anticipated to be reduced from 3,862 to 3,680.
  •  Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion.  Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
  • Investments in rural traffic safety have been found to result in significant reductions in serious traffic crashes.  A 2012 report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) found that improvements completed recently by the Texas Department of Transportation that widened lanes, improved shoulders and made other safety improvements on 1,159 miles of rural state roadways resulted in 133 fewer fatalities on these roads in the first three years after the improvements were completed (as compared to the three years prior).   TTI estimates that the improvements on these roads are likely to save 880 lives over the next 20 years.

Federal funding for Oklahoma’s roads, highways and bridges may be cut as early as this summer because of a lack of adequate federal transportation revenue.  The current federal transportation program, which provides funding for the state’s roads and bridges, is set to expire this fall and will require Congressional action to continue beyond September 30th, 2014.   Future state highway spending will also be reduced by $75 million annually, which will be required to pay off bonds that were issued to help pay for the state’s recent road and bridge improvements.

  • The MAP-21 program, approved by Congress in July 2012, increased funding flexibility for states and improved project approval processes to increase the efficiency of state and local transportation agencies in providing needed transportation improvements.
  • The impact of inadequate federal surface transportation revenues could be felt as early as summer of 2014, when federal funding for road, highway and bridge projects is likely to be delayed because the balance in the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to drop below $1 billion. This delay and uncertainty in funding will likely result in the postponement of numerous projects.
  • MAP-21 does not provide sufficient long-term revenues to support the current level of federal surface transportation investment.  Nationwide federal funding for highways is expected to be cut by almost 100 percent from the current investment level for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2014 (FY 2015) unless Congress provides additional transportation revenues.  This is due to a cash shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund as projected by the Congressional Budget Office.
  • If the funding shortfalls into the federal Highway Trust Fund are addressed solely by cutting spending it is estimated that federal funding for highway and transit improvements in Oklahoma will be cut by $625 million for the federal fiscal year starting October 1, 2014, unless Congress provides additional transportation revenues.
  • Oklahoma is obligated to pay $75 million annually to retire bonds issued over the last decade to help pay for road, highway and bridge improvements in the state.

The efficiency of Oklahoma’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the state’s economy.  Businesses are increasingly reliant on an efficient and reliable transportation system to move products and services. A key component in business efficiency and success is the level and ease of access to customers, markets, materials and workers.

  • Annually, $117 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Oklahoma and another $135 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Oklahoma, mostly by truck.

  • Eighty percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Oklahoma are carried by trucks and another seven percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.
  • Highway accessibility was ranked the number one site selection factor in a 2011 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.

Sources of information for this report include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U. S. Census Bureau, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO),the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  All data used in the report are the most recent available.