Newly elected National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) Chairman Dave Thomey of Maryland Materials, North East, Md., testified before the House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit at a two-day hearing focusing on the surface-transportation bill and streamlining programs, cutting red tape and creating jobs.
According to NSSGA, the first day was devoted to transit interests, while on the second day, Thomey joined 19 other road and highway witnesses. In an unusual hearing format, each witness was given four minutes to make a statement and then returned to their seat in the audience, making way for the next witness. Questions for the witnesses were held to the end of the hearing. While efficient, the format led to fewer questions being asked of the witnesses.
Thomey discussed the state of the industry and urged congressional action before the end of the current extension on a multi-year, robust surface transportation reauthorization. He said that NSSGA members support an increase in the user fee to fill the funding gap between needs and revenues into the Highway Trust Fund, but he told the committee that NSSGA members understand the political realities of increasing the user fee. They also understand that no one funding mechanism is a panacea, and Thomey urged the committee to be open to all funding options. He also urged the committee to ensure that Highway Trust Fund revenues are spent on highway projects and not diverted to other uses.
Thomey called for additional streamlining of the permitting process and for more consistent implementation of the streamlining provisions contained in SAFETEA-LU. He asked Congress to make clear that FHWA has the chief responsibility for highway projects being completed expeditiously so that unnecessary time is not spent on ensuring the potential projects meet all environmental regulations. He called for applying more common sense to the environmental review process and greater collaboration between the transportation departments and the resource agencies, which would help to speed the review process while providing needed environmental protection.
Finally, Thomey called for giving the identification and protection of aggregate resources necessary for transportation infrastructure development higher priority in land-use planning.
Ranking subcommittee member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) gave up on posing individual questions to the witnesses. He asked the group how many supported an increase in the gas user fee and how many supported transitioning to a system based on vehicle miles traveled. All the witnesses’ hands were raised.
The two-day stakeholder hearing preceded an April 5 subcommittee hearing when members of Congress were invited to present their views on surface transportation reauthorization.
NSSGA and its Americans for Transportation Mobility and Transportation Construction Coalition partners continue to meet with members of Congress to advance reauthorization with a particular focus on educating new members on the highway system.