The key to current funding... is miles driven, and that is dictated by employment, or rather unemployment in this economy. If you don't have a job, you won't be driving to work. Once we create jobs, miles will go up. In the meantime, the long-range solution may come in some form of privatization.
Wathne: The HTF clearly needs stable revenue sources that reflect consumer trends for using alternate fuels, but also which are tied to the consumer price index or some other metric of the economy. Our posture is consistent with the recommendations presented in the 2007 Commission report, where increases in the federal motor fuels tax is identified as the only viable solution in the short-to-medium term, and a VMT (vehicle miles travelled) based system is most likely a long-term approach.
Q: Generally speaking, what will 2011 look like for highway contractors and producers?
Solsby: There will be challenges, there's no doubt about it. ARRA funding tapers off, states have cut spending on infrastructure and we still don't have a bill. We see this as reason No. 1 to push for the next highway bill.
Simonson: At best, new contract awards are likely to remain at pre-ARRA levels in early 2011. ARRA funds will quickly be depleted, and large cutbacks in activity and employment are likely by late 2011 unless there is a new surface transportation act by then.
Basso: We need long-term, well-funded legislation. Until we get it, numbers will continue to head south. AAA now supports a gas tax to help fund a bill. So does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as do we and a number of other organizations.
Sullivan: I think the best we can hope for is a flat situation. The ARRA stimulus package will have less of an impact in 2011 than it did this year, not to mention the passage of a highway bill is questionable for 2011.
At the state level, deficits will continue to impact street and local road construction. In 2006, for example, street and road construction accounted for 18 million tons of cement. This year, that figure is down to 5 million tons.
On a brighter note, a new highway bill and pent-up demand for new roads and streets bode well for concrete contractors and producers in 2013 and beyond.
Wathne: We are optimistic that both the highway and FAA bills will be passed in the year ahead. When the programs are enacted, we believe this will have a stabilizing effect on road builders and agencies alike.
It generally takes between 12 and 18 months after the highway bill is signed into law for agencies and road builders to hit stride. Even so, it is only with the enactment of adequately funded, robust programs that agencies and contractors can plan for the future; invest in capital equipment; and build, repair, and maintain the surface transportation systems that are so vital to our nation.