WASHINGTON — One hundred ten years ago today, a small group of influential Americans heeded the call from Michigan public official Horatio S. Earle and gathered at the Cadillac Hotel in New York City to launch what has become the nation’s oldest and highly influential transportation advocacy group: the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
Earle’s vision was to gain federal support for construction of a “Capital Connecting Government Highway System” — a paved road network that would “connect every state capital with every other state capital and with the United States’ capital, Washington.” That vision came to fruition in 1956 when Congress authorized funding and construction of the Interstate Highway System, which today stands, arguably, as one of the greatest accomplishments ever achieved by a national association.
Over the years, ARTBA’s broad membership of contractors, design firms, material suppliers, heavy and safety equipment manufacturers, financial and educational institutions and public officials broadened its mission to advocate strong infrastructure investment for all modes of transportation. ARTBA has played an instrumental role in passage of every federal transportation funding bill since 1913, including actions that boosted investment or increased user fee support for highway, transit and/or airport construction in 1956, 1959, 1970, 1982, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1998 and 2000, 2003 and 2005.
The association advocated establishment and subsequent protection of the federal highway, aviation, waterway and ports user-supported trust funds and also the creation a Cabinet-level U.S. Department of Transportation (1966).
Today, as a lead player in current congressional efforts to reauthorize the federal highway and transit programs, ARTBA continues its legacy of leadership as co-chair of the 29-member “Transportation Construction Coalition” (TCC) of major trade associations and unions it initiated in 1996, and vice chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-led “Americans for Transportation Mobility” (ATM) coalition, which it helped launch in 2001.
A long-time coalition builder, ARTBA organized the American Transportation Advisory Council (ATAC) in the 1970s, which produced seminal U.S. transportation capital needs reports in 1975, 1981 and 1985, and the 120-member “Alliance for Truth in Transportation Budgeting” in 1995 that pushed successfully for budget protections of the Highway Trust Fund.
ARTBA has also helped give “birth” to many influential roadway construction-related trade shows, conferences and organizations. For example, it:
- Organized the first “Road Show,” a heavy construction equipment exhibition, in 1909 in Columbus, Ohio. The “Road Show” was the forerunner of today’s mammoth CONEXPO-CON/AGG, one of the world’s largest trade shows, now administered by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.
- Organized the first “Pan American Good Roads Conference” in 1915.
- Helped form “The Road Gang” in 1942 in Washington, D.C.
- Created The Road Information Program (TRIP) in 1968, housing the public relations operation at the ARTBA headquarters building in Washington, D.C., during its early years.
- Organized and hosted the first-ever national and international conferences in highway work zone safety, and started in 1998 the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (www.workzonesafety.org), which is now the largest online safety resource.
In 1985, the association formed the non-profit Transportation Development Foundation, now known as the ARTBA-TDF, which currently boasts a $3 million annual program of work. The TDF manages federal contracts, develops and conducts safety training and public education campaigns, provides educational scholarships and funds cutting-edge economics and policy research.
In the early 1993, ARTBA also became the industry’s primary advocate in the federal courtroom, when it challenged — and killed — a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation that would have threatened federal highway funding to the states. The association’s several landmark legal victories over the years that followed have allowed nearly $50 billion worth of approved, yet court challenged, U.S. transportation improvement projects to move forward.
To learn more about the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and its programs and services, visit www.artba.org.