|The American Road & Transportation Builders Association released an astute review of FAST just as President Obama signed the bill into law. The 16-page document is posted at www.artba.org.
An American Road & Transportation Builders Association analysis of the five-year, $305 billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) signed into last month finds: “While the total core highway investment increase during the [five-year] life of the bill will be just over 15 percent, yearly assessments are a better gauge of market impact. Highway investment will jump 5.1 percent in FY 2016 and then slow to rates of growth between 2.1 percent and 2.4 percent for [FY 2017–2020]. Investment levels will exceed projected inflation by a total of $1.7 billion over five years and beat projected construction material cost increases by $1 billion over the same period. As a result, federal highway investment will see narrow increases in purchasing power through 2020, but the FAST Act’s biggest impact on the highway construction market will be the stability it provides states and the private sector.”
“This critical bill gives state and federal governments the funding certainty essential for informed infrastructure investment,” concurred National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association President Michael Johnson. “Our industry is ready to get to work and help improve the condition, efficiency and safety of America’s roads, highways and bridges. We commend members of Congress for seeing the value of a robust infrastructure to foster economic growth, maintain our global competitiveness and improve the quality of life for Americans.”
“This is the first long-term highway bill since 2005,” said Portland Cement Association President James Toscas. “Congress has finally proven to the American people that our nation’s transportation infrastructure is a priority.” Among FAST provisions cement and concrete interests proposed, he noted, are authorization of a federal study to analyze the impact of pavement stiffness on vehicle fuel economy and reauthorization of the Accelerated Implementation and Deployment of Pavement Technologies program.
“We applaud our nation’s leaders for passing such a critical piece of legislation that provides five years of funding above base levels,” added National Ready Mixed Concrete Association President Robert Garbini. “The FAST Act guarantees critical funding levels and reform without compromising safety, which is exactly what the ready mixed concrete industry needs to continue building our surface transportation system.”
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who also chaired the Conference Committee harmonizing both chambers’ bills, called FAST “one of the most important measures this Congress will pass.” He added that the bill is “an investment in America and the infrastructure that underpins our economy. I appreciate the work of all my colleagues on the Transportation Committee and the Conference Committee, on both sides of the aisle, in working to move this legislation forward for our country.”
“This is a common-sense, bipartisan bill that provides our state and local governments with the certainty they need to begin to plan for long-term projects that bring our aging system into the 21st century,” affirmed T&I Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)
The FAST Act bill passed the House and Senate by 359–65 and 83–16, respectively. Among highlights and key points, the law:
- Authorizes the Highway Trust Fund through 2020.
- Establishes a pilot program for public-private transit partnerships.
- Restores the authority of Export-Import Bank, which helps foreign customers finance the purchase of U.S. products.
- Facilitates commerce and the movement of goods by refocusing existing funding for a National Highway Freight Program and a Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects Program.
- Expands funding available for bridges off the National Highway System.
- Streamlines the environmental review and permitting process to accelerate project approvals, without sacrificing environmental protections.
- Eliminates or consolidates at least six separate offices within the Department of Transportation and establishes a National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau to help states, local governments, and the private sector with project delivery.
- Increases transparency by requiring the Department of Transportation to provide project-level information to Congress and the public.
- Promotes the deployment of transportation technologies and congestion management.
- Encourages installation of vehicle-to-infrastructure equipment to improve congestion and safety.
Road Dollars Spur Equipment Activity
An Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) analysis shows the significant economic impact the recently enacted Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or FAST Act, will have on construction equipment distributors and manufacturers. AED’s state-by-state projection estimates the five-year, $305 billion bill, authorizing $207.4 billion for the core federal aid highway program, will generate more than $13 billion in equipment market activity (sales, rental and product support) nationwide through 2020 and support more than 4,000 dealership jobs each year.
“The new analysis clearly illustrates what AED told lawmakers for almost a decade: restoring certainty to the federal highway program will yield positive economic benefits for equipment distributors, manufacturers and their employees,” says AED President Brian McGuire. “Equipment distributors were decimated during the recession and recovery has been slow due to volatility surrounding federal infrastructure programs. The FAST Act will revive the industry, create jobs, and lay the groundwork for solid economic growth.”
AED’s analysis is based on a study in which George Mason University Professor Stephen Fuller determines each dollar spent on roads generates, on average, 6.4 cents in construction equipment market activity. Restoring the Highway Trust Fund’s solvency has long been AED’s top legislative priority. The association strongly supported the FAST Act and will work with policymakers to identify real and sustainable revenue streams to increase and stabilize the federal Highway Trust Fund for decades to come.
Bill bolsters cement shipment growth
Taking stock of highway and transit program funding levels in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, Portland Cement Association Chief Economist Ed Sullivan sees minor increases in cement and concrete demand for FY 2016–2020. “FAST represents an average addition of 835,000 metric tons annually to the cement industry,” he affirms. “Smaller increases occur in the near term, 370,000 tons for 2016, and larger net increases occur in the out years, [to] 1.4 million tons for 2020.”
FAST is seen largely as an improvement over the previous MAP-21, which expired in September. The new federal highway program has modestly higher funding levels and, with a nearly five-year horizon, positions states to plan multi-year projects.