By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA
Four key congressional committee leaders offered optimistic assessments of the prospects for new infrastructure funding this year during the first-of-its-kind virtual Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Washington Briefing.
More than 750 transportation design and construction industry executives and advocates attended the May 21 online session, which replaced the annual in-person fly-in cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TCC Co-Chair and ARTBA President Dave Bauer urged the attendees to keep pressing Congress for robust investment using modern digital tools.
“Because we are unable to meet in person, the power of a strong grassroots movement will be more critical than ever to the success of our efforts,” Bauer said.
Those efforts are now underway on several fronts:
- During the virtual event, attendees used their computers and smartphones to send their legislators emails and tweets calling for increased infrastructure investment through the TCC’s Hardhats for Highways grassroots platform. More than 600 advocates sent 1,984 emails and 557 tweets.
- Attendees also were briefed on the TCC’s advertising, social media, and grassroots campaign, titled “Reopen, Renew and Revitalize.” (Image at top.) It is designed to encourage Congress to make infrastructure investments the major catalyst for economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.
- ARTBA’s Grassroots Action Center also allows transportation advocates to send emails and tweets to their members of Congress. This message urges a $50 billion infusion of federal funding to state transportation departments to ensure improvement projects move forward and mitigate against further job loss, and passage of a robust multi-year surface transportation reauthorization before the current FAST Act law expires Sept. 30.
Since May 15, nearly 4,400 digital communications from these campaigns have been sent to Capitol Hill and the White House asking for immediate infrastructure investment.
Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.); EPW Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.); House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.); and T&I Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) gave their remarks to the TCC off the record. Generally, they appeared hopeful that Congress and President Donald Trump could reach an agreement on infrastructure legislation.
The House has approved a bill with $15 billion for state DOTs and other COVID-19 relief spending, but the chamber hasn’t released a reauthorization bill. The Senate EPW last summer passed the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), which includes a 27 percent increase in highway investment. But the upper chamber has not indicated plans for further pandemic relief spending.