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Study to shape Great Lakes shipping

USDOTJanuary 3, 2011 – A lot of stone gets shipped on the Great Lakes, and shipping is a vital part of the Great Lakes region economy. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration will hold three public meetings to gather data and comments for the agency's U.S.-Flag Great Lakes Fleet Revitalization Study.  It will include reviewing investment options for the revitalization of the fleet and related regional maritime infrastructure, an overview of existing market conditions, an inventory of the U.S.-flagged Great Lakes vessels and regional port infrastructure, an examination of private/public sector financing options, and a benefit-cost analysis for each of the investment options. 

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GOP rules proposal could reduce highway funding

nssgaNSSGA is sounding the alarm bells! The House Republican Conference will hold an organizational meeting at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, January 4, 2011, to consider amendments to the Rules of the House of Representatives for the 112th Congress.  Among the changes proposed, highway funding, with some exceptions, will now be treated as other general spending and therefore be subject to any member attempt to reduce the spending level. Under current rules, any member of the House can raise a point of order against legislation reducing federal highway funding levels from those set in the controlling multi-year reauthorization bill.

This rule change in essence repeals the guaranteed funding requirement for annual federal highway investment and returns the process to the pre-TEA-21 era.  Prior to the enactment of TEA-21, funding levels were set lower than the incoming HTF revenue stream so as to offset spending in other parts of the federal budget.  As this operated in the past, the HTF accrued large balances while infrastructure needs went unmet.

NSSGA has signed on to a coalition letter organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials opposing this rule change.  If you have the opportunity between now and Jan. 4, please call your Republican House members and ask them to oppose this rule change. You can reach them and their staff at their Capitol Hill offices by calling NSSGA's Washington Action Hotline at (866) 255-3207 to be connected directly to the U.S. Capitol Switchboard.

Tell them to drop the proposed House Rules change on highway funding because:
  • This change would disrupt the entire concept of the federal gas tax as a user fee by allowing funding to be withheld and large balances built up in the HTF while the nation’s infrastructure needs go unmet.
  • Unemployment in the American transportation construction sector is double the national average, exceeding 18 percent.  This rule change would only add more uncertainty to funding levels and thus prevent large-scale job creating projects from moving forward.
  • Instead of a rule change, what Congress really needs to do is work to enact the overdue multi-year surface transportation program reauthorization.

Going short

aashtoThe Senate voted 79-16  to temporarily extend through March 4 federal highway and transit programs as well as appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation and other government agencies, according to The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials . The House of Representatives concurred and sent the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature. Funding for the federal government under the current continuing resolution was due to expire, and temporary authorization for highway and transit programs is scheduled to lapse Dec. 31. This stopgap measure is the sixth short-term extension of surface transportation authorization law "SAFETEA-LU," which originally expired Sept. 30, 2009.

ARRA a big success

artbaThere are many who say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was a failure and did nothing for highway construction or to stimulate the construction economy. I beg to differ. According to a new report released by The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, with all ARRA highway investment funds now obligated, state and local government recipients invested $26.4 billion into 12,931 projects, including 6,279 that have been completed and 5,564 that are under construction.

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Construction employment rises

AGCConstruction employment continues to be a key indicator of where the market is headed. Construction employment expanded in 20 states between October and November, while the list of states with year-over-year construction job gains grew to 13 states plus the District of Columbia, the Associated General Contractors of America reported in an analysis of state employment data released today by the Labor Department. The new figures continue a year-long pattern of mixed results in construction employment as overall demand remains weak, association officials noted.

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