The posts below are from the May 14 program of ARTBA’s Federal Issues Program and Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In.

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Speaker Pelosi ‘Confident’ of Infrastructure Bill

America is at “a pivotal moment” to pass broad and historic infrastructure legislation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) told the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC).

“We have a special opportunity now because the needs are so great,” Pelosi said.

Speaker Pelosi

Pelosi, following an April 30 meeting with President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), is aiming for a $2 trillion package that funds roads, bridges, and transit, as well as water systems and rural broadband.

“We could spend $4 trillion or $5 trillion, but $2 trillion is a start,” she said.

The challenge remains how to pay for the package. Pelosi did not address that key issue at the TCC meeting. The congressional leaders and the president are tentatively scheduled to meet again next week, though a date has not been announced.

“The good news is the president is committed to getting this done,” Pelosi said. “We just have to stick with the program. I’m confident that it will happen.”

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T&I Members Talk to TCC

A bipartisan panel from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee addressed the Transportation Construction Coalition Fly-In. Left to right: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.); Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.); Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa); and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) .

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William Toohey Honored with ‘ARTBA Award’

William D. Toohey, Jr., a long-time ARTBA senior executive, received the organization’s highest honor—the “ARTBA Award”—during the Federal Issues Program luncheon.

Established in 1960, the ARTBA Award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions that have advanced the broad goals of the association. Over the years, recipients have included several governors, more than 25 U.S. senators or representatives, two U.S. transportation secretaries, and dozens of top leaders and executives from government and the private sector of the transportation construction industry.

Toohey, who retired in April as ARTBA executive vice president and COO, was recognized for 34 years of leadership and executive management of the government relations, policy, member services and marketing functions. He was the architect of innovative policies such as Critical Commerce Corridors goods movement program. He was the driving force behind the “Transportation Makes America Work” grassroots lobbying and communications advocacy program; National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse; Dr. Don Brock TransOvation™ Workshop; and Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™.

In his luncheon remarks, Toohey thanked his wife, Mary; former ARTBA CEO Pete Ruane and the association staff; and the industry leaders who have served as annual ARTBA chairmen. “What I’ve really missed after just a month of retirement is the people,” Toohey said. “I hope our paths will cross again in the future.”

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FHWA Administrator Nicole Nason Committed to Safety, Innovation

Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason, in her first public speaking appearance since being confirmed by the Senate, told ARTBA’s Federal Issues Program that she is committed to safety and innovation.  

“We still have too many fatalities on our roads,” Nason said. “FHWA has done some wonderful things with designs and improving work zone safety, but I am committed to a future of zero fatalities, and would like to work with all of you to reach that goal.”

Nason said the Trump administration is committed to regulatory reform and permit streamlining. She said the agency will have “a lighter touch” by moving some decisions to states and local officials.

Fifteen years ago, Nason said, few people would have imagined drones, driverless cars, 3D-printing, and other technological innovations. “We all know there is more coming,” she said, including bridge inspections done by robots and drones.

Nason also noted FHWA’s role in the Highway Construction Workforce Partnership (HCWP). “The transportation system depends on qualified workers,” she said. “Investing in their success is vital to the system’s success.

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Transportation Industry Leaders Optimistic About Legislative Chances

A panel of four transportation industry association executives said they are cautiously optimistic about Congress prioritizing infrastructure legislation this summer, before the 2020 presidential election cycle hits full stride.

Linda Bauer Darr, president & CEO, American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), warned that too much talk about big infrastructure projects without addressing the how to pay for them is “a head fake.” She urged President Donald Trump to provide leadership on funding, since Democrats will be reluctant to move forward on legislation unless they see what revenue measures he is willing to support. “It’s a question of where we are going to get the money,” she said.

Paul Skoutelas, president & CEO at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), said he is watching the House to come forward with bill in the next 60 days.

Jim Tymon, executive director, American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), said is is watching whether Congress attempts a broad infrastructure package or accelerates reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation law, the FAST Act, which expires next year. “Timing is the key before the election cycle,” he said.

ARTBA President and CEO Dave Bauer noted the positive outcome of the April 30 infrastructure meeting between President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D. N.Y.).

“We have an open door. It could have been shut and it wasn’t,” Bauer said. “Now we have to make them understand the benefits of passing a bill. They know they need to do something.”

Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), moderated the discussion.

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FHWA Bridges & Structures Chief Addresses ARTBA Meeting

Dr. Joseph (Joey) Hartmann, director of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Bridges and Structures May 13 updated ARTBA’s 2019 Federal Issues Program about the agency’s evolving bridge and tunnel inspection criteria. READ MORE