Government Affairs

Senate Passes Great American Outdoors Act

The U.S. Senate last Wednesday passed by a 73-25 vote, The Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently provide $900 million in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps secure land for trails and parks, according to THE HILL.

The legislation will also put $6.5 billion toward addressing a maintenance backlog at national parks.

Of special interest to the roadbuilding community is that much of the maintenance backlog is related to transportation assets, including roads.  (Click here to see our coverage of the legislation.)

Commenting on the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said, “The Great American Outdoors Act will bring much-needed resources to the long-deferred maintenance and upkeep in parks and other public lands all across our country.”

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ACPA and PCA Support LCCA Amendment  

ACPA and PCA sent a letter to all House T&I Committee leaders and members last week during T&I committee markup of the INVEST in America act, expressing support for a  life-cycle cost analysis amendment introduced by Rep. Peter Stauber (R-MN).

Known as amendment number 48, the measure underscores the benefits of LCCA as a means of providing states with a greater understanding of the full cost of highway projects, while also enabling more accurate planning and improved asset management.

“The highways and bridges built today must last for generations to come,” the associations wrote. “For that to happen, the full cost of a project—taking into account its entire life cycle—must be factored into the decision-making process. While initial project costs are significant drivers of decisions, future costs are equally important to understand when making project decisions. In fact, future costs, including maintenance, can often amount to more than fifty percent of a project’s total cost.”

The Portland Cement Association and the American Concrete Pavement Association supports the view that “all possible and proper measures be taken to ensure the tax payers of this country that they are receiving full value of every highway dollar spent.” This view was expressed clearly by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), the forerunner of AASHTO, in the context of the early years of Interstate highway construction and full-value return on the investment remains a fundamental principle advocated by the cement and concrete industry to this day.

The associations continue that LCCA is a proven economic analysis technique, based on well‐founded economic principles that are taught in Economics and Civil Engineering programs at the University level throughout the United States. It is a tool for evaluating the long‐term economic efficiency between competing alternate options.

When performed thoroughly and correctly, LCCA, which has been used in highway decision-making for over half a century, will identify the best value solution with the desired performance at the lowest cost over the long-term. Click here to see the complete letter.

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NACA Applauds T&I Committee’s Action to Move Forward with Highway Authorization

The North American Concrete Alliance (NACA)* yesterday penned a letter to House T&I Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) applauding the Committee’s action to move forward with highway authorization efforts. The Invest in America Act is the T&I Committee’s highway reauthorization bill authored by the committee majority. Click here to see our in-depth coverage of the draft bill.

Expressing support for the Committee acting on the bill, the group underscored the importance of passage by the end of the fiscal year (September 30). The group also emphasizes how the bill could aid in long-term economic recovery from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NACA is very appreciative of the robust funding levels in the bill including $319 billion for highways that offers a 42 percent increase over FAST Act levels. Additionally, 100% federal cost share for the first year coupled with the five years of certainty offered by the bill will allow for stability within many transportation industries and State DOTs.”

The group also called on the T&I Committee to work with the Ways and Means Committee to find a sustainable, long-term funding source for the Highway Trust Fund. NACA also expressed support for language supporting resilience with durable, resilient materials, as well as investment in the nation’s bridges as part of the reauthorization package.

The NACA partners also expressed concerns about the bill’s emphasis solely on nature-based infrastructure. “While we recognize that there are opportunities to integrate green infrastructure with traditional gray infrastructure, science and engineering must determine the materials and techniques best able to mitigate risk,” the group wrote, adding, “As such, NACA does not support material preference policies that curtail the decision making or discretion of engineers.”

NACA also urged the Committee to support an incentive-based approach to curbing carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and to reconsider the INVEST Act’s proposal to suspend the recent Hours of Service rulemaking from the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration. Click here to see the letter.

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* The North American Concrete Alliance is a coalition of 12 concrete-related associations formed in 2004 for the purpose of addressing industry-wide concerns & initiatives in the areas of research, safety, education, and government affairs. The coalition is comprised of the American Concrete Pavement Association, American Concrete Pipe Association, American Concrete Pressure Pipe Association, American Concrete Pumping Association, Concrete Foundations Association, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, National Concrete Masonry Association, National Precast Concrete Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Portland Cement Association, Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, and Tilt-Up Concrete Association.

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Highway Users Host Roundtable, Applaud Committee for Moving Forward with Reauthorization Process

The Board of Directors of the American Highway Users Alliance (Highway Users) on June 4th hosted a virtual roundtable with House Subcommittee on Highways & Transit Subcommittee Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) to discuss COVID-19 legislation, emergency relief for State DOTs and The Invest in America Act, the House T&I committee’s majority-sponsored highway bill (H.R. 7095).

The Highway Users also took the opportunity to thank Congressman Davis for his support on a number of important transportation issues. ACPA is a long-standing supporter of the Highway Users; Leif Wathne currently serves on its Board of Directors and co-chairs its Policy and Government Affairs Committee.

Highway Users officials have conducted eight virtual Hill meetings with Congressional offices in an effort to push for both emergency State DOT relief and a long-term highway bill before the September 30 deadline. Included among those offices the Highway Users have met with in recent weeks: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); House Minority Leader McCarthy (R-CA); Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO); Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO); Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK);  Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS).

In related news, the Highway Users’ Policy and Government Affairs Committee also crafted and sent a letter yesterday to T&I Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR); Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO); House Subcommittee on Highways & Transit Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton and RM Davis applauding the House T&I committee for moving forward with the surface transportation reauthorization process. Click here to see the letter.

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Follow this link to see ACPA’s government affairs repository.

Taking a Closer Look at The Invest in America Act

As we reported in this week’s “3 Minutes on Monday” special report and in an article in ACPA TODAY last week, the House T&I Committee Majority released H.R. 7095, the five-year, $495 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill called the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America Act” or the “INVEST in America Act.”

Let’s take a closer look at the bill, as well as what steps lie ahead in the process of securing a surface transportation reauthorization bill. Click here to view the bill and here to view a section-by-section summary. Leif Wathne provided these insights:

  • The bill provides $319 billion in highway funding, or roughly a 42% increase over current spending levels, although there are no- pay-fors identified in the bill.
  • The INVEST Act is based on the “Moving America and the Environment Forward,” framework introduced by T&I Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and two other influential House Chairs in January. Click here to see our brief summary of that framework published last January.
  • The major themes of the bill are state of good repair, safety, climate mitigation and resiliency.
  • The highway-relevant portion of the bill is divided into two sections, “Division A,” essentially a one-year extension of the current highway bill through FY 2021 with an additional $14.7 billion in DOT funding, and 100% federal cost share, and “Division B” covering the remaining four years of the bill with significant program changes.
  • Of some concern to our industry is a “fix it first” provision, which requires DOTs to focus on maintaining the system in a state of good repair rather than adding new highway capacity, unless they can meet a series of requirements. There are a number of other program-changes of interest to our industry, including:
    • Bridge Program: Requires States to spend 20 percent of their NHPP and Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBGP) dollars on bridge repair and rehabilitation projects, amounting to $28 billion between FY 2022-2025.
    • Climate Change: Requires USDOT to establish a new greenhouse gas emissions performance measure based on carbon emissions per capita on all public roads. The bill also creates a new formula program ($8.4 billion for FY 2022-2025) to reduce carbon emissions across a wide range of eligible projects.
    • Resilience: Creates a new formula program to fund resilience and emergency evacuation needs. Requires states and MPOs to develop an infrastructure vulnerability assessment to guide investments under the program.
    • Formula Study: Calls for a study by FHWA to consider modernizing highway formulas and factors.
    • Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP): Reestablishes a state’s ability to flex up to 10% of their HSIP funds to non-infrastructure safety improvements. Focuses on high-risk rural roads and expands eligibility for the Safe Routes to School program.
    • Freight: Removes the National Highway Freight Program cap on multimodal projects and allows states to designate additional rural and urban freight corridors and increases States power to expend funds across the National Highway Freight Network.
    • Tolling: Reestablishes the requirement that FHWA enter into a toll agreement before allowing tolling on a Federal-aid highway and creates new requirements for tolling and congestion pricing implementation.
    • Research and Innovation: Focuses on Intelligent Transportation Systems Program and “smart infrastructure” investment in localities similar to USDOT’s SmartCities program. Also establishes a new multimodal freight transportation research program and a new Highly Automated Vehicle and Mobility Innovation Clearinghouse.
    • Vehicle-Miles Traveled Fee Pilot: Increases funding for state pilot programs and establishes a national program.
    • Projects of National and Regional Significance: Provides more than $9 billion for large highway, transit, and freight projects that cannot be funded through annual apportionments or other discretionary sources.
  • We’re particularly excited to report that the $12 million Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technology (AID-PT) program is included in the bill, with some additional language added related to greenhouse gas emissions. ACPA originally led and successfully championed this important pavement technology deployment program, first in MAP-21 and then in the FAST Act. We’re excited about the prospect of building upon the successes of those past programs, with the CP Tech Center’s continued outstanding contributions.

Although we are encouraged by the committee’s release of this reauthorization proposal, it is worth noting that Democrats did not work with their Republican counterparts in crafting it, something that may hamper bipartisan efforts to get highway authorization passed by the end of September when the current authorization expires.

It is our hope however, that a more bipartisan process will emerge – either as the committee moves toward Markup in the coming weeks, or when (or if)  the bill ultimately goes to conference with the Senate EPW-passed reauthorization proposal from last summer (the ATIA Act, which we reported on in ACPA TODAY).

The White House is expected to announce the “Deliver Act,” the Administration’s proposed transportation reauthorization package in the coming days.  This is expected to be a 10 year roughly $1 trillion dollar measure with approximately $810 billion for surface transportation. In addition, House T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) is working on their own version of a reauthorization proposal, much in line with the framework he released last February.

Although there are many steps required to bring the disparate and complimentary legislative packages together, we are encouraged that there is considerable activity in Washington this summer (both in Congress and in the Administration) on surface transportation legislation. ACPA will continue to monitor the various funding and programmatic changes proposed thus far, and will engage with elected officials as appropriate, based on how they impact contractors and the industry overall, as well as our agency customers.

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