By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA 

ARTBA senior vice presidents David Bauer and Dr. Alison Premo Black detailed the status of the federal highway and transit investment bill and potential transportation construction market impact, respectively, during an Aug. 6 webinar that attracted more than 100 registrants.

With the Senate having passed July 30 a multi-year surface transportation bill, Bauer emphasized that grassroots attention should focus on the U.S. House of Representatives while members are on recess for the next four weeks. The House is expected to begin work on its version of highway/transit legislation in September. A ready-to-use message is available at ARTBA’s Grassroots Action Center, which allows members to contract their House representatives via email and social media platforms.

To help pay for a multi-year highway and transit bill, Bauer said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) wants to use resources from international corporate tax reform, which the Senate declined to do in July. Ryan’s plan is to impose a tax on the foreign earnings of U.S.-based corporations and deposit the one-time proceeds in the Highway Trust Fund.

The three-month extension—to Oct. 29—approved by both chambers before their August recess and signed by President Obama, contains enough funding to get through the end of the year. That means some members may push for a two-month extension before Halloween, Bauer said. He also noted that Congress has a busy schedule this fall, with 13 appropriates bills and another a debt limit increase on the calendar.

Black, ARTBA’s chief economist, said nominal increases in DRIVE Act investment levels will help preserve purchasing power of federal aid program and likely provide an additional half to 1 percent growth in future years of the highway and bridge construction market.

“The challenge is that every year contractors, suppliers and the businesses that provide the goods and services for highway, bridge and transit construction face higher prices, just like consumers do at the grocery store,” Black said. “While there are increases in the Senate DRIVE Act investment levels each year, those increases are going to cover expected inflation, so the overall impact on the real market activity will be less.”

Webinar slides from both presentations are available here.