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PCA Urges: Congressional Action Needed for Proper Water Safeguards

PCALast week, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) introduced Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act (H.R. 5078). This bipartisan legislation establishes safeguards that preserve important federal-state partnerships in protecting our nation’s waterways.

The bill is scheduled for full mark-up by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday, July 16 at 10 a.m.

A proposed rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would redefine “waters of the United States” and expand the scope of federal jurisdiction. Cement plants in the United States currently comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that require strict adherence to water quality guidelines. However, the proposed rule is confusing and ambiguous, and will likely add requirements to water permits. For example, an added provision in the proposed rule is that “waters of the United States” may be defined “on a case-specific basis,” and consequently, infrastructure projects and construction site developments could be delayed due to increased hydrological and geological surveys to determine jurisdictional questions.

“As proposed, the rule could undermine cement manufacturing’s long-term investment by preventing full access to limestone deposits,” Cary Cohrs, chairman of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) Board of Directors said. “Cement is vital to maintaining and building our nation’s infrastructure. The EPA and the Corps must fully consider the potential economic impacts that the proposed rule may place on the regulated community and on state and local governments as well as the construction and building sectors.”

The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act will provide the proper safeguards against regulatory overreach while allowing industry the certainty necessary to improve our nation’s economy.

About PCA

Based in Washington, DC, with offices in Skokie, Illinois, and nine regions throughout the nation, the Portland Cement Association represents cement manufacturing companies in the United States. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at www.cement.org.

 

ARTBA President Reacts to Congressional Developments Relating to the Highway Trust Fund

image002The following statement is from American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President & CEO Pete Ruane:

“While we appreciate the efforts of the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees to move forward this week on their respective plans to keep federal transportation funds flowing to the states, these actions must not be the latest ‘punt and leave the stadium’ strategy that has plagued the federal surface transportation program for far too long.

“The Highway Trust Fund has been limping from crisis to crisis for the past six years as America’s transportation network continues to decline.  Therefore, our message to Congress is simple: your job isn’t close to being done.

“It’s incumbent upon lawmakers in the House and Senate, and officials from the Obama Administration before the end of 2014 to develop a long-term and sustainable Highway Trust Fund solution that supports future transportation capital investments.  Anything less ignores the fragile state of our nation’s economy and does a great disservice to the tens of millions of American motorists, businesses, and workers who rely on the transportation network every day to support their livelihoods.”

The HILL Reports: House panel approves stopgap highway bill

 http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/211845-house-panel-approves-stopgap-highway-bill#ixzz37B0ovxcj 

The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved a stopgap bill to prevent a bankruptcy in the Highway Trust Fund, setting up a fight with Senate Democrats over how long the funding should last.

The panel approved by voice vote a $10.5 billion bill that would extend until May transportation funding that is now scheduled to run out at the end of August.

The chairman of the panel, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), cast the measure as a more transparent effort to debate transportation funding issues than a rival Senate plan that would expire during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections.

“We all know what lame-duck deals look like, and more importantly, how they come together,” Camp said before the vote on Thursday.

“They are not done in this room and they are not done by the members of this committee. Maybe one or two of us will be consulted, but they are often leadership deals with the committees on the outside looking in.”

The House measure would provide a one-time cash infusion into the Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund, which Obama administration officials have said will run out of money next month without congressional action.

The House GOP proposal would provide $7.7 billion for highways and $2 billion for public transportation systems, according to the bicameral Joint Committee on Taxation. The bulk of the funding would be offset by revenue from federal pension changes and a fee that is paid by travelers who use U.S. customs facilities.

The proposal would also take $1 billion from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund, a funding mechanism that Camp said Thursday was also used in the last transportation funding bill that was approved by lawmakers in 2012.

“These are policies everyone at the dais is familiar with, they are policies that will provide the funding we need, and they are the only policies that will pass both the House and Senate in time to fund the trust fund after the end of this month. So, I see no reason why we cannot work to get this done right away,” Camp said.

The traditional source of transportation funding has long been the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax. The tax has been stagnant for 21 years, however, and it has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure expenses in recent years as cars have become more fuel efficient.

The result has been a shortfall in federal transportation spending that budget analysts estimate is in the neighborhood of $16 billion per year.

The gas tax typically brings in about $34 billion per year, but the current transportation funding bill that is scheduled to expire in September includes more than $50 billion in annual road and transit spending. Transportation advocates have said the current funding level is the bare minimum Congress can spend on infrastructure projects to maintain the nation’s road and transit systems.

The GOP proposal relies mostly on revenue from pension changes and customs fees to offset the bulk of the cost of replenishing the Highway Trust Fund.

Democrats have pushed to have an approximately $9 billion short-term transportation bill that relies on similar funding sources.

But Democrats in the House and Senate diverge on how long the stopgap should last. Infrastructure advocates have said pushing the issue to the lame-duck could help them convince lawmakers to approve an increase in the federal gas tax.

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee said Thursday that lawmakers would be unlikely to approve a long-term transportation bill if they put off a decision until later in the year.

“Soon we’re going to find ourselves in the middle of a presidential election, and you know how much fun this issue will be when the guns go off for the race for the White House, which I suspect is going to be in November this year,” Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said.

“We still have time in the 113th [Congress] to make some tough decisions, but everyone’s so God-danged afraid of making tough decisions around here, especially anything involving revenue,” Kind continued.

Camp rejected raising the gas tax to pay for transportation projects, however.

“The Senate appears to be heading down a road of higher taxes for more spending,” he said. “That’s not a path forward in the House.”

Democrats criticized Republicans leaders in the House for relying on accounting maneuvers to pay for a short-term transportation funding package instead of increasing the gas tax, which has paid for maintenance of U.S. roads since the 1930s.

“We are grabbing all over the shelf for money to take care of transportation funding for the next 10 months, over the next 10 years,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said. “The Peter’s that are getting the money are robbing the Paul’s that have nothing to do with transportation.”

The gas tax was last increased in the first year of President Clinton’s administration in 1993.

The current transportation bill, which includes the authorization for the government to collect the gas tax at all, is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30.

Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/211845-house-panel-approves-stopgap-highway-bill#ixzz37B0ovxcj

 

TRIP Report: Americas Rural Roads And Bridges Have Significant Deficiencies And High Fatality Rates; Repairs And Modernization Needed To Improve Conditions, Boost Safety And Support Agriculture, Energy And Tourism

TRIPAmerica’s rural heartland is home to nearly 50 million people, and its natural resources provide the energy, food and fiber that support the nation’s economy and way of life. But, a new report finds that the nation’s rural transportation system, which is critical to the nation’s booming agriculture, energy and tourism sectors, is in need of modernization to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates and inadequate connectivity and capacity. The report, “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” was released today by TRIP, a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. It defines Rural America as counties that lack an urban area of at least 50,000 in population or lack a large commuting flow to an urban county.

STATE Percent Rural Roads in Poor Condition STATE Percent Deficient Rural Bridges STATE Fatality Rate Rural/All Other Roads
1 Connecticut 35 Pennsylvania 25% South Carolina 3.99 / 0.68
2 Rhode Island 33 Rhode Island 25% Florida 3.35 / 0.95
3 West Virginia 33 Iowa 22% West Virginia 2.8 / 0.99
4 Hawaii 32 South Dakota 21% Texas 2.76 / 1.03
5 Michigan 32 Oklahoma 20% Arkansas 2.71 / 0.87
6 Kansas 30 Hawaii 19% Tennessee 2.68 / 0.95
7 Oklahoma 29 Nebraska 19% Arizona 2.66 / 1.11
8 Maine 28 North Dakota 17% Kentucky 2.64 / 0.78
9 Mississippi 25 Maine 16% California 2.61 / 0.63
10 Arkansas 23 Louisiana 16% Pennsylvania 2.6 / 0.91
11 Missouri 23 Missouri 15% Oklahoma 2.52 / 0.92
12 Washington 22 New Hampshire 15% Hawaii 2.48 / 0.89
13 New Mexico 21 Mississippi 14% North Carolina 2.44 / 0.64
14 Alabama 21 North Carolina 14% Montana 2.4 / 0.95
15 V ermont 21 New Jersey 14% North Dakota 2.33 / 0.77
16 Alaska 20 Wyoming 14% Kansas 2.26 / 0.74
17 New Hampshire 18 New York 14% South Dakota 2.21 / 0.74
18 Virginia 18 Michigan 14% Ohio 2.15 / 0.63
19 Wisconsin 17 West Virginia 13% New York 2.13 / 0.59
20 Pennsylvania 17 California 13% Indiana 2.09 / 0.56

TRIP_Rural_Roads-2-segments-01 (1)The TRIP report finds that traffic crashes and fatalities on rural roads are disproportionately high, occurring at a rate nearly three times higher than all other roads. In2012, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.21 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.78 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. Rural traffic fatality rates remain stubbornly high, despite a substantial decrease in the number of overall fatalities.

“More than 46 million Americans live in rural and less densely populated areas of the country where their primary mode of transportation is a personal vehicle,” stated Kathleen Bower, AAA Vice President, Public Affairs. “Motorists expect and deserve safe, well maintained roads and bridges no matter if they are traveling on the Interstates or rural roads. Congress must act quickly to provide a sustainable solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund to ensure that states can continue to make necessary infrastructure investments that will benefit all travelers.”

TRIP_Rural_Roads-2-segments-02 (1)In addition to disproportionately high traffic fatality rates, the roads and bridges in rural America have significant deficiencies. In 2012, 15 percent of the nation’s major rural roads were rated in poor condition and another 40 percent were rated in mediocre or fair condition. In 2013, 12 percent of the nation’s rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient and 10 percent were functionally obsolete.

“America’s rural transportation system is an integral component to the success and quality of life for U.S. farmers and ranchers,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Adequate roads and bridges are necessary to deliver our agricultural bounty to markets at home and abroad. As we see additional growth and opportunities in rural America, we must work together to take advantage of those opportunities and to ensure that infrastructure supports and enhances our rural communities.”

TRIP_Rural_Roads-2-segments-03The report also finds that the development of major new oil and gas fields in numerous areas as well as increased agricultural production are placing significantly increased traffic loads by large trucks on non-Interstate rural roads, which often have not been constructed to carry such high load volumes. The average travel per-lane mile by large trucks on major, non-arterial rural roads in the U.S. has increased by 16 percent from 2000 to 2012.

The federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding for rural roads. But a lack of adequate funding of the federal program may result in a significant cut in federal funding for the country’s roads, highways and bridges. The impact of inadequate federal surface transportation revenues could be felt as early as this summer, when the balance in the Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to drop below $1 billion, which will trigger delays in the federal reimbursement to states for road, highway and bridge projects, which would likely result in states delaying numerous projects.

“So many of our industry’s manufacturing facilities and their workers are located in rural America, where they depend on safe and efficient roads for their livelihoods,” said Rick Patek, group president of Astec Industries and 2014 chairman of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). “As Congress weighs how to extend the Highway Trust Fund, they would be well-advised to read this report and consider the effects of their actions on rural roads.”

TRIP_Rural_Roads-2-segments-04Nationwide 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.

The TRIP report finds that the U.S. needs to adopt transportation policies that will improve rural transportation connectivity, safety and conditions to provide the nation’s small communities and rural areas with safe and efficient access to support quality of life and enhance economic productivity. To accomplish this, the report recommends modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, implementing needed roadway safety improvements, improving public transit access to rural areas, and adequately funding the preservation and maintenance of rural transportation assets.

TRIP_Rural_Roads-2-segments-05“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “This backbone of the heartland allows mobility and connectivity for millions of rural Americans. The nation’s rural roads provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourist and recreational destinations. But, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, America’s rural communities and economies could face even higher unemployment and decline. Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America.”

For additional information visit:

National Rural Roads News Release | 07/10/2014
America’s Rural Roads and Bridges Have Significant Deficiencies and High Fatality Rates; Repairs and Modernization Needed to Improve Conditions, Boost Safety and Support Agriculture, Energy and Tourism

State Rural Roads News Releases | 07/10/2014
AZ, AR, CA, CT, HI, IA, KS, LA, ME, MI, MS, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI & WY

Rural Roads Report | 07/10/2014
Rural Connections Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland

Rural Roads Report Appendix A | 07/10/2014
Urban Areas with Populations Over 50,000 with No Direct Access to Interstates

Rural Roads Report Appendix B | 07/10/2014
2012 Rural Non-Interstate Traffic Deaths

Rural Roads Report Appendix C | 07/10/2014
2012 Fatality Rate per 100 million Vehicle Miles of Travel

Rural Roads Report Appendix D | 07/10/2014
2012 Rural Arterial and Major Collector Pavement Conditions

Rural Roads Report Appendix E | 07/10/2014
2013 Rural Bridge Conditions