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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.

Young Leaders a Great Event

Dragline_BucketMay 16, 2011 – The NSSGA Young Leaders (YL) Annual Meeting took place this past weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  I am glad I was able to take part in such a great event. The YL meeting is a way for the younger generation (age 40 and below) to develop leadership and management skills, build a national network of industry professionals and to discuss/address industry topics. This was my first YL event AND my first visit to CEMEX FEC Quarry. As the photo of the dragline bucket depicts, I had a blast at the quarry and well, even witnessed a blast while I was there. Beyond the quarry fun, there were educational meetings, a community project with Feeding South Florida and a lot of relationship-building, which I hope turns into life-long friendships. Stay tuned for a more detailed account of my experience at the YL meeting in our upcoming issue of Rock Products. -- Josephine Smith

Bipartisan PR

artbaMarch 13, 2011 – Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton didn’t agree on much, but they were both strong supporters of transportation investment to create jobs and grow the economy. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the American Public Transportation Association announced the launch of a radio and television ad campaign featuring these presidential icons. The two groups aim to elevate transportation investment into the ongoing congressional debate about the federal budget and future investment priorities. They are calling on Congress to pass a well-funded, multi-year highway and public transportation bill this year. The surface transportation authorization legislation expired on September 30, 2009, and has been extended until September 2011. I like the idea behind this campaign. Both sides of the aisle are covered, and the big issue is illustrated effectively. Let's hope it helps.

ConExpo-Con/Agg Survivor

idaho131x200May 9, 2011 – Many of us like to say we survived ConExpo-Con/Agg, but Rita Chretien is a REAL survivor. She never made it to the show, becoming stranded for 49 days in the wilderness in northern Nevada, where the vehicle in which she was traveling became stuck on a snowy logging road. She was found alive by hunters about 4:00 p.m. last Friday – seven weeks after she and her husband Albert, who own an excavating business in Canada,  went missing. He is still missing. He left the vehicle to try and find help and never returned. Rita Chretien was reported in a fair condition at a Twin Falls, Idaho, hospital. Read the amazing story here.

Don James Looks Ahead

JamesMay 5, 2011 – Vulcan Materials released its first quarter 2011 financial report, and in dissecting it, it is interesting to read what the company's president, Don James, identifies as the factors that will influence demand for the company's products in 2011. He specifically cites 1) the need for modest growth in residential construction; 2) the stabilization of private nonresidential construction and 3) the continuity of federal funding for highways at current levels. "We expect the full year growth in volumes to be weighted more towards the second half of the year driven primarily by growth in demand," he said. "Certain large projects in a number of key markets are expected to drive aggregates volume growth in the second half of the year. The mid-point of our estimated range in aggregates shipments continues to be 2 percent above the prior year's level. Additionally, recent weather-related disruptions from tornadoes and flooding are likely to affect second quarter aggregates shipments in a number of southeastern and Mississippi River markets and push some demand to later in the year. We believe a more stable demand outlook will benefit pricing and we expect most of our markets to achieve year-over-year price growth in 2011. As a result, we continue to expect aggregates pricing in 2011 to increase 1 to 3 percent from the prior year's level. The earnings effect of the increase in aggregates pricing will be somewhat offset by the energy-related cost pressures expected throughout the remainder of the year. With that said, we expect aggregates earnings in 2011 to increase from the prior year due to higher shipments, increased average selling prices and the benefits of production efficiencies and cost management measures."