Georgia Congressman offers take on the future of infrastructure investment

Ahead of his re-election on November 8, Georgia Ready Mixed Concrete Association (GRMCA) hosted Representative Rob Woodall (R-GA-7) at the Martin Marietta quarry in Augusta. The visit was a stop on a statewide transportation speaking tour, and the third meeting between Rep. Woodall and GRMCA members.

Rep. Rob Woodall

Rounding out his first term on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Congressman has immersed himself in the issues important to the infrastructure industry, including ready mixed concrete. Early in his tenure with the committee, he made a commitment that Congress would pass a long-term transportation funding bill; he and colleagues followed through with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, signed into law late last year. FAST was the first long-term transportation bill to be passed in 10 years. The five-year legislation provides $305 billion in funding toward improving and reforming our nation’s transportation infrastructure and programs. The Act offers flexibility for state and local governments to streamline the project approval process, maintain a strong commitment to safety, and ease burdensome regulations.

While the FAST Act has refocused and reshaped national infrastructure priorities, the impact in Georgia has also been significant. The state received the eighth largest funding stream, with over $6.8 billion allocated through 2020. The Act creates jobs and economic competitiveness by allowing commerce to flow and projects to move forward. It gives Georgia, as well as all states, a certainty in funding that it has lacked for years. As the sole Georgian on the Committee, it was important to Rep. Woodall to seek guidance from local industries on the regulatory issues that could be addressed in the FAST Act. During a concrete plant tour, GRMCA members took the opportunity to show Rep. Woodall precisely how they conduct their business as well as some of the issues they face that hinder their operations. One such issue was the Federal Motor Carrier Administration’s 30-minute break, under the Hours of Service rule.

The ready mixed concrete industry was operating under a temporary exemption from the break but sought to make it permanent. After taking the time to educate himself on the issue, it became a no-brainer to support. “It was apparent to me that while this one-size-fits-all regulation was well-intended for trucking safety, it simply did not work for the ready mixed industry due to the nature of the job and the product,” says Rep. Woodall. “These are the types of common sense reforms I am committed to producing as long as I sit on the Transportation Committee.”

He and his staff worked with both the GRMCA and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association on ensuring FAST Act language that would make the exemption permanent. In the end, Congress permitted ready mixed producers to allow for time on jobsites and batch plants to count toward the requisite 30 minutes. “As we continue working with Rep. Woodall on large, red tape issues for our industry, it is clear to me that he can be counted on to efficiently work toward eliminating obstacles that directly affect our bottom line,” observes GRMCA Executive Director Jimmy Cotty.

While speaking with members and supporters, Rep. Woodall also addressed what he anticipates in the lame duck session of Congress and what he perceives to be the future in transportation and infrastructure investment. He noted that funding would consume most of the session, specifically in regards to trade and budget bills. He is also optimistic about Water Resources Development Act passage, which will help provide the resources to continue projects that will significantly contribute to interstate commerce and economic growth.

Rep. Woodall spoke about the future of transportation funding. In the recently passed FAST Act, he noted that there is about a $70 billion deficit. By the time the law expires in 2020, that deficit will grow to approximately $120 billion. He feels strongly about funding bills with upfront user fees rather than hiding fees in taxes. “I want people to see the value in making it to their kid’s soccer game on time. I want them to be proud of the orange cones. To me, they are a signal of commerce and economic development,” said Rep. Woodall.

Despite the partisan bickering that consumes most issues in Washington, he believes there is a great deal of unity surrounding infrastructure, affirming, “Everyone can agree on the importance of improving the country’s crumbling and outdated infrastructure.” As an example he illustrated how the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee works collaboratively in a bipartisan manner to get things done, unlike the Rules and Budget Committees, which are typically dominated by the majority party. Without consensus of the Chairman and Ranking Member along with the Sub Committee Chairman and Ranking Member, legislation will have a difficult time being passed out of Transportation.

Rep. Woodall expressed hope in the states to seek solutions as a means of cutting into the deficit on transportation funding. Citing Georgia’s recent passage of House Bill 170 during the 2015 legislative session, he believes state participation is key, noting, “I hear from my colleagues around the country all the time asking me how Georgia was able to get such comprehensive transportation funding reform done.” Funding from the FAST Act combined with revenue from Georgia House Bill 170 will provide an additional $2 billion annually for infrastructure in the state.

All in all, Rep. Woodall’s first term on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was a huge success. “I am proud Congress passed a long-term funding bill and to be able to serve the concrete industry by crafting long-term solutions to industry-specific issues. I look forward to working with the GRMCA in the future on reform that benefits the industry as a whole,” he concludes. Georgia Ready Mixed Concrete Association