By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
The Associated General Contractors of America says Tuesday’s agreement between President Donald Trump and House and Senate Democrats to work together on a $2 trillion highways, roads, bridges and rail investment program builds the beginning of momentum that will need to accelerate to make a big, bold federal transportation initiative a reality.
“We’ve got a long road – pun intended – ahead of us before we reach agreement on an infrastructure spending bill,” said AGC Spokesman Brian Turmail, “but the fact that this bipartisan agreement has been forged amidst other pressing (non-transportation-related) issues on Capitol Hill is encouraging. Now we need to keep the momentum going toward creation and passage of a broad-based infrastructure package long before the current program expires in September 2020, because by then we’ll be in the middle of an election year.”
The AGC of America and its affiliates across the U.S. – including the AGC of Missouri – are advocating for a bill that does more than fund road, rail and bridge projects. The organization wants to see a solid workforce development component as well, according to Turmail.
“Yes, we’ve got to fix the Highway Trust Fund, which is based upon a user-pay system that is fundamentally American,” Turmail said, noting that the revenue that funds the fund – 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline purchased – hasn’t been updated since 1993. “But we think the infrastructure package also needs to include workforce development since creating jobs through these construction projects is paramount. What better opportunity to marry these investments in infrastructure than with the ability to create well-paying jobs?”
Construction industry members can help further development and passage of a new, multi-year federal transportation infrastructure funding bill, he said, by engaging support from individuals and organizations beyond the construction sphere.
“One of the things our AGC members and lobbyists hear all the time (from Congress) is, “’We hear from construction industry people all the time, but we also need to hear from others outside your industry such as those who use our highway system,’” Turmail said. “We’re asking AGC members to ask shippers, manufacturers, drivers and consumers – neighbors, church friends and others – to contact their federal elected officials and communicate the importance of maintaining our transportation system for all.”
The nation’s current multi-year transportation funding program, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in December 2015, authorizing $305 billion over fiscal years 2016-2020.