By Steve McGough
President & CFO/HCSS
America is in uncharted waters. Major sectors of the U.S. economy and way of life have grinded to a halt, victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
Doctors, nurses, other health care practitioners, public health professionals, first responders, members of the National Guard, law enforcement officials, and teachers are our real heroes. Their capacity for burden—and the rest of the American people for that matter—as author Jodi Picoult writes, “is like bamboo, far more flexible than we could have first imagined.” It’s hard to disagree with that assessment. It also helps illustrate why we will ultimately meet the challenges at hand.
In times of emergency or peril, the nation pushes forward and essential industries, including transportation construction, continue to work on the public’s behalf. ARTBA’s archives reveal the association pushed for additional infrastructure investment—for safety, national security and economic reasons—during World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, Korean War, and Vietnam. Such advocacy also continued after 9/11 and the 2008 financial collapse.
Port in the Storm
In the current situation, ARTBA aims to be a port in the storm. We are providing critical information on numerous fronts to help our members meet their business needs and continue to champion the pro-transportation investment cause on Capitol Hill.
Our regularly updated report, produced by Contractors Division Managing Director Rich Juliano in partnership with our chapter affiliates, highlighting the state-by-state coronavirus impacts on transportation projects, started at nine pages. It’s now more than 150. The feedback from the membership has been overwhelmingly positive.
A national bridge contractor says the report is the “most useful piece of information that I am getting and using.” A state contractor chapter executive notes the report “helps keep anxiety down in our industry.” And the president of a Traffic Safety Industry Division member observed his company has “used the information to provide some much-needed insight on business continuity.”
In the first series of coronavirus relief legislation approved by Congress, ARTBA voiced concerns for its small and family-owned business about the likely impacts of the measure’s paid family and sick leave provisions on their operations.
After consulting with its member firm safety leaders, ARTBA formally asked the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to clarify recent statements related to the recordability of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and their consistency with past agency practices, especially given the uniqueness of transportation construction work.
As I write this column, we have hosted five webinars, led by top construction legal experts and safety professionals, to explain the business impacts of the new coronavirus laws. More than 1,200 industry professionals registered for these five events.
Beyond these value-added services, ARTBA remains mission focused. We are working with congressional allies to advance a multi-year surface transportation investment package in the upcoming rounds of coronavirus-related legislation.
The five-year highway reauthorization program bill, approved unanimously by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee in July 2019, is a very good starting point. House leaders are expected to come forward with their version of the bill soon.
A renewed commitment to expanded highway and public transit investment, via a multi-year reauthorization bill, is a proactive and meaningful way to significantly enhance economic productivity for the short- and long-terms.
We know these are extraordinary times for your business, organization or agency. On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from having navigated it. ARTBA is there with you. Hopefully soon, together we will raise the sail and begin.
Stay safe and positive!
(This column appears in the March/April issue of ARTBA’s Transportation Builder magazine.)