Government Affairs

It’s Official: Nason Sworn in as FHWA Administrator

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao presided over the swearing in ceremony for Nicole R. Nason as Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) last Thursday.  The event officially marks the beginning of Administrator Nason’s role as only the 20th FHWA Administrator and the 26th official to lead the FHWA and its predecessor organizations, which date back to 1893.

“We welcome Nicole back to the U.S. Department of Transportation,” says Secretary Chao, adding, “Her record of experience in the transportation sector and proven leadership skills will help this Administration’s efforts to streamline the permitting process, engage with innovative technologies, and enhance mobility on our nation’s highways.”

Since June 2017, Nason has served as Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Administration at the U.S. Department of State. She previously served as Administrator of USDOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2006-2008 and was the Department’s Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs from 2003–2006. The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Nason by a vote of 95-1 on March 28.

“I am honored to be selected by President Trump and privileged to join the strong team that Secretary Chao has assembled at DOT,“ Nason says. “Working with our many state and local partners, I look forward to leading the FHWA and to developing a strong, safe and modern transportation network that meets the needs of our 21st-century nation.“

Nason has also worked in the legislative branch as counsel for the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary and as press secretary for Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL-14), who was then Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Nason earned a B.A. in Political Science and Government at American University and a J.D. at Case Western Reserve University. 

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Photo:  Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao swears in Nicole R. Nason as FHWA Administrator as her husband David and children Abby, Alex and Brady look on. (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Transportation)

ACPA Encourages Members to Participate in TCC Fly-In

The Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Annual Fly-In will be held in conjunction with the ARTBA Federal Issues Program from Monday, May 13, through Wednesday, May 15, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  The hotel is located at 1000 H Street Northwest, Washington, DC.

ACPA Chairman Jim Mack of CEMEX, and Leif Wathne, ACPA Executive Vice President, are planning to attend the fly-in ahead of next week’s ACPA Chapter meeting.

For those interested in participating, please click here to reserve hotel rooms and register for the event.  Click here for additional  details, including the program schedule.  For any questions regarding the conference please contact Ed Tarrant at etarrant@artba.org.

In related news, the TCC has unveiled a new website, which includes information about its mission, history, current advocacy initiatives, and more.  Click here to see the website. ACPA is a long-standing member of TCC, which includes 31 members.  

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TCC Advances Discussion on Proposal to Renew Interstate Highways

The Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) has formally encouraged Congressional Leaders to support a report and underlying plan called, Renewing Our Commitment to the Interstate Highway System: A Foundation for the Future, which was first reported by ACPA in January.  ACPA’s Board of Directors also formally endorsed the report in March.

TCC wrote and sent letters to U.S. House and Senate Leaders, urging the lawmakers to “build on the recommendations made in this report by passing legislation that makes a meaningful investment in the nation’s transportation system.” TCC also urged the Leaders to advance an infrastructure investment bill which will “address the shortfalls in investment in our transportation system highlighted in the report.” 

Click here to see the letters to the House and Senate minority and majority leaders. Click here to see the original report by ACPA, along with links to the recommendations made in the report, the presentation made at the TRB Chairman’s Luncheon in January, and a video presentation. 
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HTF Solvency Figure Higher Than Expected

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week released their updated baseline budget projections for the ongoing fiscal year 2019, as well as the 10-year period of fiscal years 2020 through 2029. 

The new baseline estimates include the cost of keeping the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent at baseline spending levels, according to a report by Jeff Davis, Eno Center for Transportation Senior Fellow and Editor of the Eno Transportation Weekly. 

The FY 2019 enacted levels, plus annual inflation increases of around 2 percent per year, has risen to about $176 billion, which is about $12 billion higher than the $164 billion that CBO projected in its January 2019 preliminary baseline.

The new baseline projects the highway account of the HTF will require $124 billion in additional revenues or bailout transfers (or spending cuts) to get to a zero balance at the end of the current fiscal year. A “cash cushion” also would have to be added to reflect the fact that year-end totals actually include a large mid-October retroactive transfer of excise taxes from the Treasury, Davis writes.  As such, ending September with a zero balance really means cash was actually depleted on a day-to-day basis sometime in the middle of that month.  This calls for a $4 billion cash cushion for the Highway Account and a $1 billion cushion. Click here to read the full report.

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Perspectives on the $2T Infrastructure Plan

The President and Congressional leaders met yesterday to discuss infrastructure, and insiders report the meeting was constructive and focused on working together to develop an infrastructure bill valued at $2 trillion, according to the American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA).  An infrastructure could include a long-term highway reauthorization bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) expressed positive comments about the meeting, with Sen. Schumer saying “there was goodwill” on both sides toward developing a major piece of legislation, according to a report by THE HILL, which added  Speaker Pelosi said both sides had “come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold.”There is no information or agreement on how the parties expect the bill to be funded. Although the Administration will rely on Congress to draft the legislation and will not be drafting its own detailed proposal, there was reportedly some regret within the Administration over their 2017 proposal that relied heavily upon public-private partnerships and leverage as the primary source of funding for infrastructure, AHUA says. In addition to President Donald Trump, Secretary Elaine Chao and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow were among the senior-level Administration attendees present.

Although details are limited, the characterization of the meeting being cordial and constructive is important. Had the meeting been a disaster, it would have likely doomed any progress on infrastructure or highways this year. Instead, there is some potential bipartisan momentum that could energize the process, AHUA says.

Shortly after the meeting, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer issued a joint statement, saying, “Building America’s infrastructure is about creating jobs immediately, and also bolstering the commerce it facilitates, advancing public health with clean air and clean water, and improving the safety of our transportation system, and addressing climate change with clean energy, clean transportation and resilient infrastructure. 

“We are pleased the President agreed to include a major investment in expanding broadband to rural, urban and other underserved areas to deliver broadband’s benefits for education, health care and commerce,” they say. “We have an historic opportunity to build infrastructure for the future, and an urgency to address the safety needs that our crumbling infrastructure represents.  Every congressional district in America has urgent needs, which any big and bold initiative must address.”

Also commenting on the meeting yesterday was House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio.  “Today’s meeting with the White House was a big step in the right direction in our work to develop a robust, bipartisan plan for infrastructure investment,” he says, adding, “Two trillion dollars is a significant federal investment that could make a real difference in communities across this country, whether we’re talking roads, bridges, and transit systems, or harbors, airports and wastewater systems, just to name a few areas that would get a real boost from a bipartisan deal.

“I’m encouraged to hear the widespread agreement on the need to act on infrastructure—and to act soon— and I look forward to continuing this critical conversation with the White House and House and Senate leadership in the coming weeks,” he adds.

At the time of this writing, there was no corresponding statement regarding the meeting by the White House or Congressional Republicans, although some party members, including Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN-06), did express support in social media posts.  The WASHINGTON POST reports that “Congressional leaders said they will return to the White House in three weeks to determine how to pay for it.”

Transportation-construction, labor, and other advocacy groups will continue to advance positions on the Highway Trust Fund, funding mechanisms, and other key provisions in support of the highway bill, and more broadly, on infrastructure investment. 

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Photo:  The Hill

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