From left to right: Paul Skoutelas, Linda Bauer Darr, Jim Tymon, and Dave Bauer. (Luiza Carson photo)

By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

A panel of four transportation industry association executives May 14 said they are cautiously optimistic about Congress prioritizing infrastructure legislation this summer, before the 2020 presidential election cycle hits full stride. The panel was part of ARTBA’s Federal Issues Program in Washington, D.C.

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.