Government Affairs

House Passes Bill to Encourage Expedited Runway Upgrades

The U.S. House has approved a bill whose purpose is to encourage airport incentive payments to contractors to expedite runway upgrades and other critical airport projects, according to ENGINEERING NEWS RECORD. Under the legislation, which the House passed on Oct. 1, incentive payments of up to $1 million would become an eligible use of federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funds.

The Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2020 (H.R. 5912) introduced by T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA), does not authorize increased AIP funding, which totaled $3.35 billion in fiscal year 2020. Under the proposed legislation, use of incentive payments would be left to the discretion of individual airport authorities, ENR says.

“This is a smart reform that already works for road and bridge project construction and delivering airport projects ahead of schedule can help save money and essentially provide a similar impact as increasing investment without any additional federal resources,” Rep. Graves says in a statement.

In the Senate, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a nearly identical bill on July 22, on a voice vote. There has been no floor action yet.

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AASHTO Opens Annual Meeting Registration

AASHTO announced yesterday registration is open for its virtual annual meeting and trade fair, scheduled for November 9th through 13th.

The meeting will include the Council on Highways and Streets, Transportation Policy Forum, a Board of Directors meetings, awards program and other events typically held at the association’s in-person annual meetings.

A full participant in this meeting may earn up to 10.5 PDHs by participating in the conference sessions from Monday, November 9 – Friday, November 13. Click here for more information, including registration details.

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Continuing Resolution Averts Government Shutdown but Falls Short of Expectations

The U.S. Senate yesterday evening approved the House-passed continuing resolution (CR), approving the measure with a bipartisan 84-10 vote.

Although the President technically missed the midnight deadline to sign the bill, he did so upon returning to the White House from a campaign rally in Minnesota. The action averted a government shutdown and extends the highway program until September 2021. In addition, the CR authorizes the transfer funding from the general fund to keep the to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for the duration of the extension. The exact figures are $10.4 billion for highways and another $3.2 billion for transit.

Although ACPA applauds the one-year extension of the highway program, we are disappointed that the measure maintains flat funding and fails to include any backfill revenue for State DOTs.

ACPA will continue to work with our allies in the highway stakeholder community to urge Congress to address the state DOT revenue shortfalls as soon as possible and to use the coming year to develop a bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization that increases investment and addresses the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

“We thank all our members, affiliates and allies for their efforts to engage Congress on our industry’s behalf,” says Leif Wathne. “When we asked you to contact the President and members of the House and Senate, you answered the call to action and expressed your support for both long-term investment and short-term relief funding for our highway agency customers. We will continue to make those points as we continue our advocacy during the lame duck period and in the year ahead.”

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FAA Announces Another Round of Grants

Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced last week that the Trump Administration will award $335 million in airport safety and infrastructure grants through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The funds will be available to 80 airports in 25 states.

“Airport infrastructure projects funded by this $335 million in federal funding will advance safety, improve travel, generate jobs and provide other economic benefits for local communities,” says Secretary Chao.

A complete listing of grants (PDF) and an interactive map of airports receiving funding is available on the FAA website.

“These 61 AIP grants will allow airports around the country to begin and complete projects that are vital to the safe and efficient operation of our nation’s airports,” says FAA Administrator Stephen M. Dickson.

The total includes $300 million from the Airport Improvement Program and $35 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (or CARES) Act grants to equal a 100% percent federal share.

The grants will be used for a variety of critical infrastructure and safety projects. The projects include purchasing aircraft rescue and firefighting equipment, constructing runways and taxiways, repairing runways and taxiways, installing aircraft lighting and signage, and other critical needs.

The Administration this year has delivered $10 billion in economic assistance to America’s airports under the CARES Act to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Since January 2017, the Trump Administration has delivered $14.5 billion to America’s airports to improve infrastructure and safety.

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Study: U.S. Mayors Consider Infrastructure Investment High Priority

America’s mayors consider infrastructure investment a high priority, according to a study released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Siemens USA, and conducted by The Harris Poll.

From public works projects to filling potholes, repairing roads, solid waste management, and other projects, mayors from small to large cities and across all regions argue that investing in infrastructure to generate jobs and economic growth are the top immediate (69%) and long-term (71%) priorities.

The study, “Infrastructure, Technology and Mayors’ Priorities for Confronting a Health, Economic and Societal Crisis” finds that even though infrastructure investment and job growth are priorities, COVID-19 has had detrimental impacts on city operating budgets.

Nearly all mayors (98%) expect their city’s operating budget to decline over the next 12 to 18 months, with 2 in 3 (66%) attributing all or most of the decline to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these mayors agree that infrastructure improvements are necessary to support a strong recovery and a more resilient future.

This new study supports a push for federal assistance to states and localities, an initiative that ASCE (which announced the study) and many other transportation organizations have advocated for fervently.

The vast majority of mayors agree that the federal government should be doing more: 94% agree that the federal government should provide emergency fiscal relief for America’s cities to mitigate the budget shortfalls resulting from COVID-19’s impact on their local economies and 86% say that without financial assistance from the federal government, the ability of their city’s economy to bounce back will be significantly delayed.

Earlier this summer, the National League of Cities reported that over 700 cities will need to delay or cancel capital investments in infrastructure due to the pandemic. Delays of this magnitude will have a long-term impact on the state of our nation’s infrastructure. State and local revenues have been decimated and this will constrain their ability to keep up with road maintenance and address unbudgeted crises. On a parallel path, American families are paying a hidden tax of $9 dollars a day because of our D+ outdated, unreliable infrastructure, ASCE says.

Click here to view the full report online and here for downloadable executive summary (PDF).

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