Pavement Preservation Journal, Spring 2016
Tracy D. Taylor, Principal
Williams & Jensen, PLLC
Pavement preservation and the highway community begins 2016 in a much better position than in many years with the passage late last year of a long-term surface transportation bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, dubbed the FAST Act.
For the first time in over 10 years, Congress passed a surface transportation reauthorization bill of over two years in length. Because the Highway Trust Fund no longer covers the annual cost of transportation funding, passage of this long-term reauthorization was a “heavy lift” which required leadership from House Infrastructure & Transportation Committee chair Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Senate Environment & Public Works Committee chair James Inhofe (R-Okla.), House committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and Senate Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Their work underscored the congressional commitment to a strong federal role in transportation programs.
The five-year, $225 billion bill – which increases funding for surface transportation by over 4 percent over the life of the bill – was passed on a strong bi-partisan, bicameral vote of 83 to 16 in the Senate and 359 to 65 in the House of Representatives.
The FAST Act, which continues many of the policies of MAP-21, increases federal highway investments by over $20 billion dollars over the five-year authorization period. Probably the most important benefit derived from passage of the FAST Act is, however, not the funding levels, but rather the stability it provides state and local transportation agencies, allowing them to take a forward-looking view to managing transportation assets and determining the most efficient way to approach their transportation needs.
This stability will be very beneficial to the highway construction industry generally and pavement preservation in particular.
Additionally, a provision in an end-of-the year omnibus appropriations bill, passed right before Christmas, requires $2.1 billion in unspent funding for earmarked transportation projects 10 years of age or older, to be spent or reprogrammed within three years. If it works as intended, this provision should push the $2.1 billion into the system to be utilized for transportation infrastructure projects.
The FAST Act builds on programmatic changes enacted in MAP-21, while making a few significant changes. The FAST Act retains much of the program structure and definition changes enacted in MAP-21, including those that clarified pavement preservation’s eligibility for funding in major programs such as the Surface Transportation Program and the National Highway Performance program.
The FAST Act also maintains the emphasis on asset management targets and performance standards set in MAP-21.
A significant change is the conversion of the Surface Transportation Program into the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, which will increase local decision-making. Importantly, the bill also provides the Federal Highway Administration with funding for programs associated with innovative pavement technologies in the field and for research on innovations and best practices.
A collective “thank you” is due to the many of you who recognized the importance of taking time out of your busy days to write letters, come to Washington, invite your representatives to your offices and facilities to explain the value of pavement preservation, and the importance of long-term transportation funding.
The collective educational effort that supported passage of this important bill was extensive and widespread, and in the end, instrumental in taking this important bill over the finish line. Let’s keep up the good work while remembering every entity in the pavement preservation community needs to be involved in FP2’s efforts to promote preservation.