By Pete Ruane
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed by Congress and signed into law the first week of December, represents a significant accomplishment for ARTBA and transportation construction industry advocates. Any advocacy group operating in the Nation’s Capital today must understand two realities. First, the legislative environment is hyper-partisan, beyond what any of us “seasoned hands” have ever seen. Second, because of that fact, Congress is largely unable (or unwilling) to enact even the most obvious legislative solutions to national challenges.
ARTBA surmounted these obstacles, as well as dealt with so-called “experts” who told the world there would never be another multi-year bill, extremist
political fundraising entities that threatened any member of Congress who tried to work constructively on this legislation, and surprises such as Speaker John Boehner’s resignation weeks before the bill reached the House floor.
Undaunted, ARTBA, our grassroots champions and our coalition partners kept pushing. It would not have been possible, however, without the personal commitment and time of so many ARTBA members and other industry activists, as well as our multi-pronged “Transportation Makes America Work!” (TMAW) program, which ARTBA’s members and chapters supported financially. This is your victory and you should take pride in it.
As we note elsewhere in this issue of Transportation Builder, the FAST Act is not a legislative home run. Not raising user-related fees was a serious missed opportunity and a lot of other work remains to be done. However, when working within a system where gridlock is expected, accepted and sometimes even celebrated, getting this legislation is still a major achievement.
With the passage of a multi-year reauthorization bill, some may suggest that the industry should go into political hibernation for a while. Of course that is never ARTBA’s M.O.! Our perennially full plate in the months ahead includes:
- Appointing and convening a new task force that will take stock of the process just completed, prepare for the implementation of the new law’s key policy provisions, and shape recommendations for the next bill.
- Pursuing any and all new revenue opportunities for the Highway Trust Fund, with the historical knowledge that many past revenue enhancements were part of non-transportation legislation.
- Continuing to fight burdensome and misguided regulations on behalf of the industry.
- Providing the most comprehensive resources available for state and local advocates through ARTBA’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (TIAC).
- Pushing for enactment of a multi-year reauthorization of the federal aviation legislation that increases Airport Improvement Program investment and raises the Passenger Facility Charge to support needed airport infrastructure improvements.
- Advocating increased port and waterway investment as Congress works to return to two-year cycles for water resources reauthorization bills.
The FAST Act is an important victory, and it should be a source of pride for the transportation construction industry. But the struggle for long-term, sustainable federal investment goes on. You can be assured that your sentinels at ARTBA will never leave our posts. Likewise, this is no time for ARTBA’s grassroots forces to fold up their tents!