Industry News

T&I Committee Approves Highway Bill, Announces Short Term Extension

Filed  October 22, 2015 (Updated on October 26 — The Transportation & Infrastructure Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives last week approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, or STRRA (H.R. 3763).   In related news, the T&I Leadership, along with the House Ways & Means Committee Chairman, today introduced a short term extension to Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21, signed into law on July 6, 2012.

Highway Bill Extension Update
The extension, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015 (H.R. 3819), is a bipartisan bill that funds and extends the authorization for federal highway and transit programs through November 20.   The bill was was introduced today by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Shuster (R-Pa.09), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.-04), and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.-01).

More About STRRA
As drafted, STRRA is a multi-year, $325 billion surface transportation bill. The final voice vote was an important step, and like the recent Senate approval of the DRIVE Act, signals a commitment by both chambers to move forward. Even so, there is still uncertainty about what comes next and when.

“Although STRRA is an improvement over the short-term extensions that have prevented state departments of transportation and the transportation construction industry from long-term planning, it lacks the long-term certainty required for adequate planning and cost-efficient resource investment,” said Leif G. Wathne, P.E., ACPA Executive Vice President. 

Funding Remains Sticking Point
A fundamental issue is that STRRA contain six years of Highway Trust Fund contract authority, but the bill presently has no “pay fors,” which means the Highway Trust Fund would once again face depletion by mid-2016.  More than $32 billion in funding is needed now, but in addition to that amount, there would need to be another $50 billion added to the HTF by September 2018 for the bill to be a true six-year bill.

“We are pleased and grateful to see this important and decisive step by the T&I Committee,” said Leif G. Wathne, P.E., ACPA Executive Vice President.  “Even so, we are concerned that the status quo funding levels in the act are inadequate.  It is our view that Congress should take every available opportunity to increase investment levels, which should be based on improving pavement and bridge conditions and performance.   We believe the best way to fund the program in the short to medium term is with an increase in the motor fuels excise tax, combined with annual indexing.”

Wathne’s concerns, along with other issues, were included in a letter penned by the Highway Materials Group earlier this week. Click here to view the letter.

What’s Next and When?
The typical process is for the House Ways & Means Committee to address the funding issue, but with Ways & Mean Chairman Ryan preparing to transition to Speaker of the House (pending approval by a vote likely this week), this looks increasingly unlikely in the short time remaining before the current extension expires at the end next week.

The House could adopt the funding levels and revenue mechanisms utilized in the DRIVE Act, the Senate-approved version of the transportation bill, passed the day before the August break.  There appears to be reluctance by the House to do this, however.

Both the House and Senate bills would maintain the current spending level of about $50 billion per year for transportation projects, adjusted for inflation, according to an article in THE HILL today. To reach that level of spending, Congress will have to come up with approximately $16 billion per year to supplement revenue from the gas tax, which has not been increased since 1993, the article continues.

To close the gap long enough to pay for three years’ worth of road funding, the Senate approved a package of approximately $47 billion of offsets.

Senate Environment & Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) say it is still possible for lawmakers to get a long-term highway bill to Obama by the end of November, now that the House highway bill has cleared its first committee test.

Pavement Technology Provision in Place
In spite of the funding challenges, Wathne reiterated support and praise for the House action this week.   He added that an import ant provision, which benefits agencies, the industry, and the traveling public, is included in the House version of the bill.

The Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technology (AID-PT) provision, was first included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP 21.  This ACPA-led initiative created both a mechanism and funding for the delivery of pavement technology.  The FHWA is now in its third year of implementation.   Subset programs stemming from AID-PT have been delivered by the National Concrete Pavement Technology Center, and both ACPA and NAPA have active roles in fostering stewardship and continuation of the program. 

To see an overview of STRRA, please click here.  To see a copy of the full text of the bill, click here.

FHWA Announces LTPP Data Analysis Contest

LTPP-FHWAThe FHWA has announced its 2015–2016 T&DI/ASCE-LTPP International Data Analysis Contest.  

The contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as undergraduate and/or graduate students working in partnership with a highway agency or private company.  

The theme for the contest is, “Select or Develop a Key Performance Indicator Using LTPP InfoPave™ to Evaluate a Question or Concern for Your Region or State.”  This year’s contest also includes a challenge topic: Develop Threshold Triggers for Maintenance and Rehabilitation Treatments Using the LTPP Data.

Click here to see an overview and contest details. 

ACPA Encourages Early Registration for Annual Meeting, Hotel

52ndAM-coverACPA is encouraging early registration for the Association’s 52nd Annual Meeting, as well as hotel rooms. With the event drawing closer, ACPA is anticipating high registration counts, and so, is encouraging reservations as soon as possible.

ACPA’s one-stop event website ( includes program details, a link to reserve accommodations, and event registration.  The site also includes the spouse/guest program, social activities, and other information about this exciting, information-packed meeting.

There are many new features this year that will interest first time attendees, as well as long-time regulars.   ACPA is featuring “Makin’ Concrete Cool” project stories and strategic issues forums (focusing on maintenance of traffic and FAA P-501 & UFC 32 13 11 specifications).  

Annual meeting attendees are also in store for a special treat, a luncheon featuring Scott Wolter, host of the “America Unearthed” TV show on the History Channel. Sponsored by American Engineering Testing, an ACPA member, the luncheon will feature stories about some mysterious and interesting artifacts and sites in America.

The event also includes an excellent line-up for Concrete Pavement University, the National Excellence in Concrete Pavement Awards banquet, and plenty of chances to catch up with old and new friends at the social/networking events.

ACPA members are eligible to receive 20%-off any registration ticket type, including those for their spouse/guest.   To receive the discounted member rate, please enter the following promo code at checkout: countonconcrete.

Attendees are reminded they should not call the hotel in Bonita Springs directly for room reservations.  Instead, they may reserve rooms by calling the Hyatt’s reservation line at 1.888.421.1442.  Even so, ACPA is encouraging reservations via the webpage.

FHWA Offers Two Precast Concrete Pavement Resources

The Federal Highway Administration has released two Tech Briefs on the topic of precast concrete pavements.   Available free of charge, the documents are offered as PDFs and may be downloaded from ACPA’s website.  A summary of each Tech Brief follows:

newFHWA-2outlinetextPrecast Concrete Pavement Implementation by U.S. Highway Agencies – The Tech Brief begins with an overview, which states, “sufficient advances have been made to reliably design and construct PCP systems to achieve five key attributes of successful pavements.” These attributes are constructability, concrete durability,  load transfer at joints, panel support, and performance/efficiency. The six-page publication also states the FHWA is currently working with 15 state agencies  on precast concrete pavement repair and rehabilitation. Click here to download  FHWA-HIF-16-007 (October 2015). 

Precast Concrete Pavement Technology Resources –  The four-page Tech Brief starts with an overview of the technology, then provides descriptions and links to related resources, including FHWA’s Highways for Life program reports, FHWA Tech Briefs, Industry Resources, Best-Practices webinars, and a Caltrans Design Report. Among the best practices webinars were five produced by ACPA and presented jointly by The Fort Miller Co., Inc., an ACPA member, and the National Precast Concrete Association.  Click here to download the publication, FHWA-HIF-15-022 (September 2015). 

AASHTO Appoints 2016 President, Vice President

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) board of directors has named Paul Trombino, III, P.E., Iowa Department of Transportation Director, as its President. David Bernhardt, P.E., commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, was elected vice president.

Paul Trombino was named AASHTO President in late September.

Paul Trombino was named AASHTO President in late September.  (Photo:  Iowa DOT)

“I’ve spent more than two decades in transportation; this ranks at the top of my list of extraordinary moments and I approach it with great humility,” Trombino said. “I am deeply honored to be selected by the AASHTO board of directors to serve in this national leadership role.”

Although he plans to continue pursing AASHTO’s policy priorities–including Congressional action on a new surface transportation bill–Trombino will primarily focus his time as president on ensuring AASHTO is well positioned to serve its member departments. Trombino said his primary emphasis will be on implementing AASHTO’s new strategic plan, including completing a thorough review of the association’s committee structure.

“Transportation powers the creation of wealth across the United States, unleashing opportunity for economic activity and quality of life,” said Trombino. “AASHTO has served its members well for 100 years, and it is important that the organization continue to adapt to ensure it can serve its evolving membership.”

“ACPA looks forward to working with Paul Trombino in his new capacity at AASHTO,” said ACPA Executive Vice President Leif Wathne, P.E. “From the concrete pavement industry’s perspective. Iowa DOT has always been a forward thinking agency, leveraging competition between two healthy paving industries to the benefit of Iowa taxpayers.”

About Paul Trombino
Appointed Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation in May 2011, Trombino is responsible for a $1 billion annual budget, approximately 3,000 employees, 9,400 miles of highways and 4,300 bridges. The state’s modal programs of transit, rail, and air as well as motor vehicle services, motor carrier services, and enforcement departments also fall under the agency’s umbrella.

David Bernhardt was appointed Vice President of AASHTO.

David Bernhardt was appointed Vice President of AASHTO.  (Photo: AASHTO.)

Trombino is a member of the AASHTO executive committee and Chair of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Transportation Communications. Prior to joining Iowa DOT, Trombino worked at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for 17 years holding several positions, including operations director of the highway division and director of the Bureau of Transit, Local Roads, Rails and Harbors. Trombino also spent four years in the finance and banking industry in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Trombino earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

About David Bernhardt
AASHTO Vice President Bernhardt was appointed commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation in February 2011. He joined the Maine Department of Transportation in 1984 and has held several positions at the department over the years.

Immediately prior to his becoming Commissioner, Bernhardt served as Maine DOT’s Director of Engineering and Operations. Commissioner Bernhardt is a 1984 graduate of the University of Maine at Orono, where he earned Associate’s and Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil Engineering.

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