Government Affairs

Washington Briefing Focuses on Highway Investment

The AASHTO Washington Briefing is an annual event for DOT officials and other guests to visit their Congressional delegations, as well as to hear speakers from the Administration and Congressional committees of jurisdiction, says Jim Tymon, Executive Director. 

This year proved to be no exception as AASHTO leaders kicked off the open forum portion of the program last Wednesday. Congressional Leaders followed, with Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY); House T&I Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR); House Subcommittee on Highways RM Rodney Davis (R-IL); and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Trade (Ways and Means Committee) Earl Blumenauer all delivering remarks They spoke about the importance of infrastructure investment and expressed their hopes of passage of a transportation bill in 2020.

Several other panel discussions followed, and one notable forum focused on “Core Formula Programs: Foundation of the Federal Program in an Age of Disruption.” Moderated by Scott Bennett (AASHTO Secretary-Treasurer and ARDOT Director), the discussion featured Jeff Davis, Senior Fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation; Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Commissioner of the NJDOT), and Bill Panos, Director of the North Dakota DOT. The panelists spoke about why core formula programs should be adapted to meet current and future requirements.

US DOT Secretary Elaine Chao presented the keynote luncheon address, reinforcing that rural America has “long been neglected of infrastructure funding,” despite nearly half of all truck vehicle miles traveled occurring on rural roads and almost two-thirds of rail freight originating in rural areas. This concern led to the DOT’s Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success or ROUTES initiative last October.

The Secretary also emphasized the importance of safety and the DOT’s continuing commitment to battling human trafficking. The Agency signed up more than 100 transportation leaders, including Jerry Voigt and Leif Wathne from ACPA, in direct support of this important initiative. ACPA also supported the US DOT’s social media program to call attention to the problem and encourage greater participation in fighting the problem.

The briefing also focused on highway and other transportation infrastructure safety; a Federal leadership roundtable, state and local partners’ roundtable; legislative perspectives from key Congressional staff, a joint luncheon with the Road Gang (featuring Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who chairs the National Governor’s Association).

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Photos: (L) DOT Secretary Elaine Chao presents keynote remarks at AASHTO’s Washington Briefing. (R) Scott Bennett, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, Bill Panos, and Jeff Davis participate in a panel discussion on highway program funding solutions programs.

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AASHTO Campaign Underscores Transportation Benefits

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) today launched a public outreach campaign called “The Benefits of Transportation: The Solutions State DOTs Bring to People & Their Communities.”

The purpose of the campaign, says Jim Tymon AASHTO executive director, “is to help citizens understand the important connection between transportation investment and the benefits we experience today and into the future.”

A website (https://benefits.transportation.org), supports the campaign with end-user perspectives, as well as an interactive map that allows visitors learn more about transportation projects that are reducing travel times, improving safety, protecting the environment, and boosting the economy. The campaign is also supported with a 12-page report that includes project profiles from across the country. 

Tymon emphasizes the urgency of the campaign. “This year will be pivotal for transportation because Congress must pass a new surface transportation bill before the current law expires at the end of September,” he says. He adds the FHWA estimates that for every dollar spent on road, highway, and bridge improvements, there is an average benefit of $5.20. 

This monetized benefit can be seen in many forms, including reduced vehicle maintenance costs, fewer delays, and lower fuel consumption. He adds the benefit can also be seen in improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

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Photo shows I-40 Crosstown and Oklahoma City Blvd., an example of business growth and economic development from AASHTO’s “Benefits of Transportation” website.

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EPW Urges Industry Support on Legislation

Staff directors of the Senate EPW Committee last week briefed transportation-construction stakeholders on the status of America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), which was approved by the Committee last July. (Click here to see the related story.)

The aim is to urge discussion and consideration of the bill in the full Senate and to advocate for approval of funding by the Senate Finance Committee, preferably in the April-May time frame, as Congress is out most of July and all of August. With attention on elections in September and October, and the elections in November, there will be little time for action on the legislative calendar.

The proposed “pay-fors” include an annual fee to owners of electric vehicles (based on an average of state gas taxes, rounded down to $200/year and indexed to inflation.) Also proposed is a plan to index the motor fuels excise tax and to implement a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax for heavy duty trucks. The information was presented to the Finance Committee, which submitted it to the Joint Committee on Taxation for technical analysis and a score. Legislative consultant Chad Bradley attended the meeting on behalf of ACPA.

ACPA Emphasizes QA/QC at Airport Symposium

ACPA participated in the ACC/AAAE Design and Construction Symposium, which was held Feb. 19 through 21 in Reno, NV. Gary Mitchell participated in and presented perspectives during one of five workshop sessions called, “Increasing Your Odds of Maximum Your Investments: Pavement Updates.” 

“We discussed various pavement attributes and the importance of building the pavement correctly from the outset,” Gary says, adding that his remarks focused on quality assurance and quality control.

The panel was moderated by Wayne Seiler of All About Pavements, Inc., an ACPA member. Other panelists included Adam Browning of S&ME; Shannon Holman of Orion and Associates; and Doug Johnson of the FAA’s headquarters office. The conference was attended by approximately 1,500 engineers, planners, and airport sponsor executives from around the country. The breakout session was attended by about 150 designers and airport engineers.

Make Plans for Cement, Concrete Industry Fly-In

ACPA is encouraging members and affiliates to participate in the 2020 Cement & Concrete Fly-In, which will be held in Washington, DC, on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 19th and 20th.

Registered guess will have the opportunity for briefings and discussions, followed by group meetings with Congressional offices and top Federal officials to discuss issues impacting the industry. The cement and concrete industry collectively has 600,000 employees and contributes more than $100 billion each year to our nation’s economy.

Please make plans today! Click here to register at the Conrad Hotel in Washington, DC, and here to register for the fly-in. A detailed agenda will be posted in ACPA TODAY as soon as it is available. 

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