By Rob Regier, vice president and Manufacturers Division liaison, ARTBA

Technological innovations and recent increases in state and local investment can’t have their full impact on the transportation construction market without adequate federal funding, ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane told nearly 1,000 industry professionals this week in Denver.

“We should never fool ourselves into believing technological and operational advances are silver bullets,” Ruane said during his keynote address to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) Transportation Summit, which combined with ARTBA’s Western Regional meeting. “The simple fact remains that building and maintaining infrastructure facilities costs money. The responsibility for delivering a safe and efficient transportation network has long been a shared responsibility of federal, state and local governments.”

The 2015 FAST Act increased federal investment by levels that narrowly exceed projected inflation and construction costs, and 26 states have passed gas tax increases or other transportation-related revenues since 2013. But total highway and bridge construction activity is still $1 billion below 2009 levels.

“It is clear a major federal transportation infrastructure package is much needed,” Ruane said. “You should all make sure you are pushing your state’s congressional delegation to support a permanent Highway Trust Fund revenue solution as part of tax reform.”

ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black also emphasized that the transportation construction market requires federal investment. Without it, capital improvements will be left lagging despite the increase in state and local funding, including many measures approved by voter referendums. Colorado Contractors Association Executive Director Tony Milo said voters in his state likely will be asked next year to approve an increase in the state sales tax to help repair and replace inadequate roads and bridges.

ARTBA’s Industry Leader Development Council hosted a workshop on innovative technology and its potential impact on infrastructure. CDOT Deputy Director Mike Lewis and Aeronautics Director David Ulane, and Association of Oklahoma General Contractors Executive Director Bobby Stem, also addressed the meeting.