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MAP-21: Blueprint for New Transportation Bill?

BoxerJune 2, 2011 – On May 25, Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) unveiled plans for a $56 billion per year surface-transportation reauthorization bill. The outline, known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), reportedly has the support of Boxer, EPW Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Highways & Transit Subcommittee and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mt.), and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-La.) While specific legislative language has not been drafted, the plan calls for spending about the same amount per year as authorized by the last highway bill (SAFETEA-LU). The issue of how to pay for the new bill is left unresolved in the proposal, which is unfortunately, too often the case with ideas in progress. The central piece of the new bill, according to the Association of Equipment Distributors, will be a dramatic expansion of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, which provides federal credit assistance to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance. TIFIA funding would increase to $1 billion per year from the current level of $110 million per year. According to Boxer, an expanded TIFIA program will result in $30 billion of private capital for transportation projects. The duration of the authorization is also undefined. Boxer has indicated that she desires a six-year bill, but it will be easier to make up for the deficit in Highway Trust Fund revenues in a shorter bill. Under the plan, a two-year bill would require Congress to find about $12 billion in additional revenues to make up for the shortfall in user fees, compared to $70 billion for a six-year bill.

Honoring Barry Wendt

nssga200x92March 24, 2011 – To honor the memory of the late Barry K. Wendt, who tirelessly devoted his energy to advance the causes of the aggregates industry, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) presents an annual scholarship to a student from an engineering school who plans to pursue a career in the aggregates industry. I knew Barry, who died suddenly in 1997, during his tenure at Cedarapids. He was the kind of straight shooter that those of us in the trade press appreciate: He told you when you were doing a good job, and when he didn't think you were, he gave you hell and told you how to do it better. I miss Barry's candor and counsel, and I wholeheartedly support NSSGA's Wendt Memorial Scholarship. Applications are open to all members and non-members. The deadline for applications is June 6, 2011.   Please click here for instructions and click here for an application form.

Fatality #5

FatalityMay 23, 2011 – MSHA reports that on April 25, 2011, a 31 year- old drill operator with six weeks of experience was killed at an underground crushed stone operation. He was walking in a crosscut when a slab of roof, approximately 5 ft. wide x 6 ft. long x 10 in. thick, struck him. This is the fifth fatality reported in calendar year 2011 in the metal and nonmetal mining sectors. As of this date in 2010, there were three fatalities reported in these sectors. MSHA Best Practices specific to this fatality include: Train workers to identify work place hazards and take action to correct them; design, install, and maintain a support system to control the ground in places where employees work or travel; examine and test ground conditions in areas where work is to be performed prior to work commencing and as ground conditions warrant during the shift; when ground conditions create a hazard to workers, install additional ground support before other work is permitted in the affected area; and be alert to any change of ground conditions.

First Quarter Sneak Peak

usgsMay 19, 2011 – USGS has released preliminary data on the first quarter of 2011, and year-over-year, market performance is weak. In the first quarter of 2011, domestic production for selected construction materials (cement, construction sand and gravel, and crushed stone) decreased compared with those of the fourth quarter of 2010, primarily owing to seasonal variation. Cement decreased 26 percent;  Sand and gravel was down 36 percent; and Crushed Stone was off 29 percent. Decreases in production for some mineral commodities in the first quarter of 2011 compared with production in the same quarter of 2010 may be attributed to decreases in total construction spending, which declined by 7.8 percent during the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that privately owned housing starts for the first quarter 2011 were 9.9 percent below those for the same period of 2010.

Highway Funds by the Mile

gas_pricesMay 18, 2011 – Just when you thought there was no new ideas for generating revenue for infrastructure improvement, along comes the "vehicle miles travelled" tax. According to an article on CNN Money, Washington lawmakers are kicking around a new idea to help raise funds: a national driving tax charging motorists by the mile. A driving tax could either replace the current 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax or possibly add to it. The idea is being floated because greater fuel economy is letting motorists drive more miles using less gas, thus lowering the amount of money going into the Highway Trust Fund. A driving tax, officially known as a "vehicle miles traveled" tax, could close that gap. While many see a driving tax as more efficient than the gas tax, there are privacy concerns over how driving information would be collected. Plus, lawmakers opposed to the idea say it places a heavier burden on motorists from rural states. I want to know who the lawmakers are kicking that around, so I can kick them around.