FAST Act Extended One Year — But ATM Members Tell Radio Newsmakers There Are Policy Miles to Go
Due to a one-year continuation of the federal funding law for surface transportation, Americans can take a breather and know one crisis has been averted in one of the most difficult years in modern history.
Member organizations of the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition took part in a recent national Radio Media Tour (RMT). They advocated a Congressional furtherance of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, which was set to expire Sept. 30, but also a requisite for a longer-term federal investment plan to rebuild aging highways, bridges and public transit.
Interviews were held in the radio markets of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and national affiliates.
ATM had joined with the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to request the extension. Passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Trump, the Continuing Resolution (CR) includes program funding and an additional $13.6 billion added to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), among some other measures.
FAST Act Can’t Be the Last Act
The extension is just one step in a steep policy climb, however. Transforming a decaying transportation system into a 21st-century model of technology and mobility will require boosted investment and a bipartisan understanding that waiting — which is costing the country and motorists billions of dollars annually — is more costly than the fix.
“We’ve just kind of taken a generation off as a nation from investing the way that we should and, as a result, there’s projects mounting,” Emily Feenstra, Managing Director of Government Relations & Infrastructure Initiatives for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), told Ken Johannessen of the national “Conversation Collage Podcast” produced in Wenatchee, Wash.
“We don’t have the money to do the maintenance that we need and the repairs and the modernization that we need to be a world-class economy,” she added.
In the last World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking, America’s infrastructure dropped from ninth to 13th. And ASCE has identified a $2 trillion funding deficit by 2025 and graded the United States’ infrastructure a D+ in its 2017 Report Card.
“Right now we’re just not seeing that kind of longterm infrastructure investment that we need in this country,” said Michael Johnson, President & CEO of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA), in an interview with the Mid-America Ag Network in Kansas.
Along with discussing the economic fallout of the pandemic and worsening bridges and county roads, Johnson discussed what federal investment means for the Midwest. He emphasized that connectivity, including ports and port roads, is essential for the agricultural industry in this part of the nation.
Revenue for the HTF, which provides federal dollars for surface transportation, comes from motor fuels and trucking user fees, yet the federal gas tax has not been adjusted in 27 years. Based on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers released in September regarding the 10-year cash flow forecast for the HTF, the projected end-of-2030 extra funding needed is still $193 billion, according to Senior Fellow Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation.
Additionally, AASHTO reported that state departments of transportation (DOTs) need $37 billion through fiscal year 2024 to cover state transportation revenue losses linked to stay-at-home orders, and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimated that public transit agencies require an additional $32 billion of federal funding to address pandemic-related costs and revenue losses.
Speaking to the People
The ATM is building grassroots awareness of how communities are affected by underfunded infrastructure. It is also zeroing in on infrastructure investment generating economic growth, creating jobs, and propelling interstate and global commerce.
Radio listeners learned about the crises of inadequate investment in states. The conversations turned to: growing cracks in the closed West Seattle Bridge; one in three roads or bridges in Ohio being in poor or mediocre condition; the need for federal dollars to help address traffic congestion on I-81 in Virginia; and Missouri officials dipping into general funds to fix an I-70 bridge that, if not accessible, could bottleneck the entire nation.
“There is a little bit of good news out there. … But we shouldn’t celebrate too much because it just essentially maintains the status quo for another year, and that status quo, in places like Missouri, isn’t great, right? You got more than half of your roads in the state of Missouri [that] are in poor or mediocre condition,” Brian Turmail, Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), told Diane Jones of KLPW in St. Louis.
Spokespeople participating in the RMT included: Emily Feenstra, Managing Director of Government Relations & Infrastructure Initiatives, ASCE; Dr. K.N. Gunalan, “Guna,” President, ASCE; Steve Hall, Senior Vice President for Advocacy & External Affairs, American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC); Michael Ireland, President & CEO, Portland Cement Association (PCA); Ashley Jackson, Senior Director for Government Affairs, National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA); Michael Johnson, President & CEO, NSSGA; Ed Mortimer, Executive Director, ATM; Paul Skoutelas, President & CEO, American Public Transportation Association (APTA); Jeff Soth, Legislative & Political Director, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE); and Brian Turmail, Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, AGC.
You can listen to a soundbite from each of the participants below:
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