Amid reports that both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate are delaying further consideration of the highway authorization measures until after recess, the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) is urging strong bi-partisan support of the bill. Unless both bills pass their chambers, the construction industry faces short-term extensions of the current, unreformed programs for the foreseeable future and bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund within one year.
Commenting on the proposal advanced by House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), ACPA’s Legislative Issues Task Force Chairman Peter Deem (Industry Associations Consultant for Holcim (US) Inc. ) says, “As proposed, the plan will stabilize highway funding, prioritize the critical needs of the Federal-aid highway system, and reduce the bureaucratic complexities of the program overall.
“We are discouraged, however, that there appears to be little bi-partisan support of the highway bill. This is a sharp departure from past programs, where elected officials on both sides of the aisle worked together to serve the best interests of road users, state agencies, and the Nation as a whole,” he says.
“We are also very dismayed to see the move by many Senators to attach extraneous or non-germane amendments in the Senate’s version of the highway bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (S. 1813),” he says. “We are very concerned that these amendments will not only slow the progression of the bill, but may in fact threaten the bill all together."
Deem says there are, of course, key differences in both the House and Senate versions of the bill, but the overarching goals of systemic reforms, durable funding mechanisms, and focusing on core priorities are very similar. Once the bills pass the House and Senate, it will be important to resolve the differences as quickly as possible, enact a conference report that can pass both chambers and be signed into law by President Obama.
“As an industry, we stand united in our hope that Congress will support legislation that meets the spirit and intent of the original sponsors. Investing in our nation’s surface transportation network is essential to maintaining global competitiveness; continuing economic recovery and furthering economic growth; and creating new jobs," Deem states. “For every day that investments in highways are delayed, it’s another day that we lose opportunities to be competitive in the global marketplace.”