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Transportation Empowerment Act Fails Us

Let’s get this out of the way right now. The Transportation Empowerment Act is bad for the aggregates industry.

In case you haven’t heard about it, the ill-conceived bill would strip away most federal funding for surface transportation projects and virtually eliminate the federal government’s constitutionally mandated role in promoting interstate commerce.

Among the sponsors in the House are Michele Bachman (R-Minn.), Tom Graves, R-Ga.) and John Mica (R-Fla.), former chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; while in the Senate, Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are pushing the legislation.

Nearly every major association working on behalf of the construction-materials and transportation industries opposes the bill. This includes AAA, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Concrete Pavement Association, American Highway Users Alliance, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Trucking Associations, Associated Equipment Distributors, Associated General Contractors of America, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, National Utility Contractors Association, Portland Cement Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The bill would reduce funding for the federal-aid highway program by more than 80 percent by 2019, from $45 billion to less than $8 billion, with no consideration of the impact on state and local governments or private industry. Left on their own, some states would have to raise gas taxes to exorbitant levels to meet the demand, or simply allow roads and bridges to crumble.

In a joint letter sent to members of congress, stakeholders make a valid point that “devolution proposals” are not a solution to the long-term infrastructure-funding question, but rather serve as a distraction from the debate about how best to fund our nation's infrastructure.

Congress has failed to act on adequate funding for transportation, and instead of looking to the future, all they can offer is a short-term, short-sighted plan designed to help them appear fiscally frugal. It is high time these masters of bait and switch, charades and political tomfoolery step aside, and allow someone to do the job that they cannot.