NACE UPDATE Vol: 09 #24
The almost bi-weekly newsletter for Board members, Committee Chairs, and Members
October 2, 2009- Volume 09 Number 24
(Note: Sources of information include the AASHTO Journal, NACo staff, Senate and House publications, the Federal Highway Administration, and other association news journals)
REMEMBER OCTOBER 10th is “PUT THE BRAKES ON FATALITIES DAY”
The annual campaign is gearing up. For the latest information on what you can do visit the PTBF day website at www.brakesonfatalities.org
House Approves 3 Month Extension – Recissions Not Addressed
The House of Representatives voted 335-85 last Thursday to approve a bill that would extend federal highway and transit programs until the end of this year. Federal law authorizing spending on federal-aid highways, transit projects, and highway safety programs is set to expire Sept. 30.
House Democratic leaders brought the measure, HR 3617, sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, to the floor late this afternoon using an expedited procedure known as suspension of the rules. This process allowed the bill to bypass a committee markup and also precludes amendments to the bill.
The legislation does not address a looming $8.7 billion rescission of existing contract authority (enacted in the 2005 transportation law known as SAFETEA-LU and amended by a 2007 energy law), which will be executed next week by the Federal Highway Administration if not repealed.
Rep. John Mica, R-FL and ranking minority member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said one of his concerns about the bill is that is does not deal with the $8.7 billion rescission.
Oberstar did not discuss the rescission issue on the House floor, but his spokesman said a repeal of the rescission was left out of the measure because House rules would require an offset to pay for it through higher taxes or reduced spending elsewhere.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials issued a statement today supporting the efforts of the House of Representatives to pass legislation extending authorization of federal-aid highway and transit programs. AASHTO noted the urgency of ensuring that federal-aid highway and transit programs do not shut down Oct. 1, the day after the current act expires.
However, AASHTO added that state transportation departments will be negatively impacted because the legislation does not repeal the $8.7 billion highway contract authority rescission that will take effect Sept. 30.
“This rescission will amount to real dollar losses to programs and projects, and will have a devastating effect on many state departments of transportation and reverse the positive economic gains brought about by the recovery act,” said John Horsley, AASHTO executive director. “For example, Missouri will lose $202 million in contract authority and the cut will have a disproportionate impact on local bridges and metropolitan planning organizations. Colorado would lose $115 million in contract authority. Michigan’s share of the rescission is $263 million, which amounts to approximately a quarter of what that state received for highway and bridge funding through the recovery act.
“States are just starting to pick up some momentum through economic recovery,” Horsley added. “Now is not the time to turn back the clock.”
The three-month extension bill now heads to the Senate, which has not yet acted on a proposal approved by three committees to extend authorization by 18 months, as requested by the Obama administration. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, has vowed to address the rescission matter when her chamber takes action. The Senate continues debating appropriations measures this week. It is unclear when the transportation extension will come up for floor debate.
Chamber, NAM, ATA, & AAA Voice Support for Increasing Fuel Taxes
Three major business organizations joined with the nation’s largest motorist association this week to call on Congress to swiftly enact a multiyear surface transportation authorization measure and to fully fund it by increasing the gasoline and diesel taxes that support the Highway Trust Fund. Organizations participating in a conference call with reporters were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Trucking Associations, and the motor club AAA.
“The time to act is now,” said Thomas Donohue, president of the Chamber of Commerce. He and other speakers on the call urged Congress to complete work on a six-year transportation bill by the end of this year.
“We need a transportation bill sooner rather than later,” said Kathleen Marvaso, vice president of public affairs for AAA.
While stressing their support for increased fuel taxes to pay for a robust transportation bill, speakers representing these four organizations also called on Congress to enact substantial program reforms and to ensure that Americans know where their extra tax dollars would be going. Asked by reporters to cite a number they would support, the groups declined to cite a specific cents-per-gallon figure but said they would consider supporting a specific fuel-tax increase if proposed by Congress after they could see what it would pay for.
“A penny increase would be a waste of time while 40 cents would be too big a bite,” Donohue said. He suggested that whatever number is proposed, the legislation must “put some mechanisms in place so [the gas tax] continues to go up with inflation and demand. We don’t want to have to come back and revisit this.”
Federal fuel taxes of 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel were last increased in 1993. They are not presently indexed to inflation and thus the purchasing power of the fuel tax has plummeted over the past 16 years.
HAVE YOU VISITED Our Local Roads Matter website!
Dan Fedderly, Executive Director Wisconsin County Highway Association, Dunn County Supervisor and former Wisconsin County Highway Superintendent presented the “rural county” view in a briefing to Congressional Staffers for the National Association of Counties. To view his presentation visit the NACE Local Roads Matter Campaign site http://countyengineers…org/LRM/index.html or click on the Local Roads Matter button on the left side of this page. Then click on the Social Media Center.
Nominating Committee Interested in New Officers for 2010–2011
NACE Awards Program: It’s Time to Nominate Deserving NACE Members as “Engineer of the Year” or “Program/Project Manager of the Year”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Administration Wide Effort to Combat Distracted Driving
At the conclusion of a two-day summit on distracted driving in Washington, D.C. last week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a series of concrete actions the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) are taking to help put an end to distracted driving.
President Obama signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles; when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving; or while driving privately owned vehicles when they’re on official government business. The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job.
“This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable. It shows that the federal government is leading by example,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I fully expect that all 58,000 DOT employees and contractors will take this order seriously. Let’s show our friends and families that we can resist the temptation to answer the phone, send a message, or allow some other distraction to interfere with our driving.”
Secretary LaHood pledged to work with Congress to ensure that the issue of distracted driving is appropriately addressed. He also announced a number of immediate actions the Department is taking to combat distracted driving, including the Department’s plan to create three separate rulemakings that would consider:
- Making permanent restrictions on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in rail operations.
- Banning text messaging altogether, and restrict the use of cell phones by truck and interstate bus operators.
- Disqualifying school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving, from maintaining their commercial driver’s licenses.
The Secretary also called on state and local governments to work with USDOT to reduce fatalities and crashes by making distracted driving part of their state highway plans, and by continuing to pass state and local laws against distracted driving in all types of vehicles, especially school buses. He asked states and local governments to back up public awareness campaigns with high-visibility enforcement actions. And he said the Department is establishing an on-line clearinghouse on the risks of distracted driving, aimed especially at young people, which will give them information to help encourage good decisions.
The two-day summit brought together safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public who shared their expertise, experiences and ideas for reducing distracted driving behavior and addressed the safety risk posed by this growing problem across all modes of transportation. Authoritative speakers from around the nation led interactive sessions on a number of key topics including the extent and impact of distracted driving, current research, regulations and best practices. Individuals from 49 states participated in the summit via the web.
Stimulus Takes a Detour Around Ailing Metropolitan Area Roads Article
The attached link connects you with a USA Today article on Friday September 25, 2009. If you hit any of the shaded states you will see the funding by counties in those states recognizing that the monies could be for those state projects in those counties. Metropolitan Area Roads
Link to article in USA Today:
Requests for TIGER Grants Far Exceed Funding Availability
State transportation departments and other government entities have requested $57 billion in discretionary grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new TIGER program, the department announced this afternoon.
“We have received an outpouring of creative and innovative transportation project proposals from across the country,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Through the TIGER grants we will begin to seriously address the 21st century transportation challenges of improving our environment, the livability of our communities, [and] enhancing safety while strengthening our economy.”
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program was created by Congress in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Applications for the $1.5 billion in available competitive grants were due last week. U.S. DOT said today that it has received 1,381 applications valued at $57 billion — 38 times the amount of funding available. Every state and four territories have applied for funds.
U.S. DOT said today that more than half of applications are for highway and bridge projects with the rest of requests focused on transit, railroad, port infrastructure, and multimodal investments. LaHood announced in July that grant awards will be made no later than January, a month prior to the Feb. 17 deadline. More information is available at tinyurl.com/TIGERprogram. More information about grant applications can be found at http://www.dot.gov/recovery/docs/tdgappoverview.pdf. A complete list of applications will be posted on the U.S. Department of Transportation web site next week.
Best Practices for Developing an Integrated and Effective RWIS.
October 13, 2009; 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET: T3 webinar on “Best Practices for Developing an Integrated and Effective Road Weather Information System (RWIS): Developing an RWIS Concept of Operations”
Date: October 13, 2009
Time: 1:00–2:30 PM ET
Cost: All T3s are free of charge
PDH: 1.5. — Webinar participants are responsible for determining eligibility of these PDHs within their profession.
T3 Webinars are brought to you by the ITS Professional Capacity Building Program (ITS PCB) at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) ITS Joint Program Office, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).
Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) can assist transportation agencies in determining current and impending road conditions, especially as they relate to the approach of weather events. This information has many uses, with one of the most important being interagency use to assist in scheduling and deploying winter maintenance activities. This information also gives roadway agencies the ability to provide real-time roadway condition information to the traveling public as weather events approach, occur, or have passed through.
RWIS consist of the hardware, software, and communications interfaces necessary to collect and transfer road weather observations from the roadway to a central location, for instance a DOT maintenance garage. While the original purpose of RWIS was to address winter weather conditions, applications have been developed to detect and monitor a variety of road weather conditions impacting road operations and maintenance. Most RWIS now consist of several meteorological and pavement condition monitoring stations strategically located near highways to help transportation managers make more informed operational decisions concerning when to conduct road maintenance operations in a safe and efficient manner. RWIS collect atmospheric, pavement surface and subsurface information, and video data to provide the most accurate pavement-specific weather information available. An Environmental Sensor Station (ESS) is considered the “collection” component of an RWIS and consists of the equipment and sensors installed within or along a roadway.
A 1991 TRB modeling study compared the benefits of using road weather information systems (RWIS) with the costs of reacting to prevailing weather conditions and found that RWIS technologies could reduce snow and ice control costs by as much as 10 percent. A 2007 Utah DOT study showed that staff meteorologists — stationed at a Traffic Operations Center providing detailed weather forecast data to winter maintenance personnel — reduced costs for snow and ice control activities, yielding a benefit-to-cost ratio of 10:1.
Road Deicing Contributing to High Chloride Levels
Road deicing contributes to high chloride levels in streams Road salt for deicing may be causing elevated levels of chloride, a component of salt, in many urban streams and groundwater across the northern U.S., according to a new government study. Other chloride sources include wastewater treatment, septic systems and farming operations. Read the entire article here (http://ct.pbinews.com/rd/cts?d=94-8572-103-103-215431-1704325-0-0-0-1-1-365.
Road Weather Resource Identification (RWRI) Tool
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration has released the latest version of a web-based tool designed to help transportation professionals find the appropriate road weather materials to suit their needs. [More]
TR News July-August 2009: Pricing Road Use to Address Congestion
The July-August 2009 issue of TR News is now available. The TR News is TRB’s bimonthly magazine, which features timely articles on innovative and state-of-the-art research and practice in all modes of transportation. [More]