Congress, Obama make two-year, $105 billion highway funding commitment

Although it represents no real gain in dollars made available via years of short-term extensions, HR 4348 (dubbed Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21) was signed into law by President Obama two days after the July 4 holiday. A two-year (FY2013-14, for a total of 27 months), $105 billion extension of the federal highway bill, MAP-21’s ceremonial signing occurred at the White House with construction workers on hand to represent putting Americans to work repairing the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and approved the legislation a week prior to its signing, with bipartisan votes of 373-52 and 74-19, respectively, ending nearly three years of temporary, often 11th-hour, funding for surface transportation. By comparison, the previous bill known as SAFETEA-LU lasted four years and funded $244 billion in projects. SAFETEA-LU expired in September 2009, leading to a continuing series of nine short-term extensions.

MAP-21 includes a directive for the Transportation Secretary to issue regulations requiring electronic logging devices—also known as electronic on-board recorders (EOBR)—for recording hours of service in commercial motor vehicles. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) was among trucking industry-aligned groups strongly opposing the EOBR mandate, and will continue work with other stakeholders to secure an exemption for short haul conditions. There was also a measure regarding the use of coal ash and its categorization by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but it was dropped from the final bill (note Editorial, page 4).

The concrete industry approached Capitol Hill calling for Congress to act quickly on passage of a new surface transportation bill by the June 30 deadline of the latest budget extension. NRMCA joined with other transportation stakeholders and members of the Senate to urge Congress to gain consensus on transportation issues, pass a new fully-funded, multiyear bill, and put thousands of Americans back to work by month’s end. Providing the backdrop for the rally were four concrete mixer trucks courtesy of association producer member Titan America.

NRMCA Vice Chairman Bill Childs, president & CEO of Chaney Enterprises, Waldorf, Md., reminded Congress that, among other things:

  • Since 2005, ready mixed concrete production (cubic yards) has declined by 57 percent;
  • Since the economic meltdown started in 2008, the industry has seen a 40 percent employment reduction;
  • Every $5 billion of federal investment leads to at least 1 million cubic yards of placed concrete; and,
  • Every $1 billion of federal investment directly or indirectly supports up to 47,500 construction industry jobs.