Surface TransportationAfter months of uncertainty, legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs in the Senate may soon materialize.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing entitled “Investing in America’s Surface Transportation Infrastructure: The Need for a Multi-Year Reauthorization Bill,” at which the Chairman, U.S. Sen. Barrasso (R-WY), revealed that he and the other members of the Committee are working to craft a five-year bill. While the Committee does not have jurisdiction over the funding mechanisms for the surface transportation programs, the Chairman did express support for user fees and is working with the other relevant committees to develop a sustainable funding mechanism.

Witnesses for the hearing included:

  • K. Luke Reiner of the Wyoming Department of Transportation
  • Carlos Braceras of American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Utah Department of Transportation
  • Max Kuney who testified on behalf of the Associated General Contractors of America
  • Vicki Arroyo of the Georgetown Climate Center, and
  • Carolann Wicks of the University of Delaware School of Public Policy & Administration and a former Secretary of Transportation for Delaware.

There was a great deal of agreement from the witnesses on the need for a bill that will deliver certainty to states regarding funding. AASHTO President Carlos Braceras illustrated the challenge for state DOT officials trying to plan for the future without certainty right now:

“…[W]e’ve programmed projects …based on Congress authorizing the program at a flat level. Now I could be wrong, I could have over- guessed… unless we find new money we will be operating at about 50 percent and then what happens is that I have to delay or cancel projects… that breaks down that [public trust] because everyone of those projects is much needed.”

Senators posed questions to the witnesses on permitting, resiliency, and innovation. Witnesses largely agreed that there is a need to streamline permitting to allow for projects to get underway more quickly and that is can be done without sacrificing certain protections and they emphasized the importance of the federal government encouraging and providing cover for the use of innovative materials and techniques.

Many of the comments from the witnesses echoed some of the infrastructure priorities of the equipment manufacturing industry. As Senate legislators continue to draft their bill over the next couple of weeks, AEM staff will be working to educate and encourage Senators to consider our priorities.

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