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Artba'S Ruane Warns Bridge Group Of Funding Peril


If Congress and the president do not act later this year or in early 2011 on passage of a new, multi-year highway and transit authorization bill, hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs could be lost and states could face at a 50% cut in federal funding, American Road & Transportation Builders Association President and CEO Pete Ruane warned industry executives gathered in Pittsburgh for the International Bridge Conference

If Congress and the president do not act later this year or in early 2011 on passage of a new, multi-year highway and transit authorization bill, hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs could be lost and states could face at a 50% cut in federal funding, American Road & Transportation Builders Association President and CEO Pete Ruane warned industry executives gathered in Pittsburgh for the International Bridge Conference.

Despite positive impacts of the economic stimulus law, a fundamental challenge remains, Ruane said. ìAmerica needs a new comprehensive and integrated vision, and a robustly funded national transportation program for the 21st century.

ìMany politicians in Washington are saying that we need to get more innovative and creative in passage of a new bill,î he reported. ìUnfortunately, 'innovative' is usually a code word for ëwe canít raise user fees,í and simply reflects their lack of political will.î

Ruane noted the ìland of the lost, inertia, inaction and downright ineptitudeî on Capitol Hill as it relates to the transportation bill, observing that ìpartisanship and dysfunction are the rule, not the exception.î

He pointed to a steady stream of research and think-tank studies, plus two congressionally chartered finance commissions that have completed reports highlighting the nationís surface-transportation investment challenges and the need for timely action. He also said there is unified business, labor union and construction industry support for new fuel taxes.

ìObjective research, sadly, has not carried the day or spurred congressional action," he said. "We are in limbo and face threats from many directions.î Among those threats are the ongoing precarious financial condition of the Highway Trust Fund, the end of stimulus highway and transit funds in late 2010, a possibly divisive battle over investment levels among the various transportation modes, and efforts to pass a Senate climate-change bill that that includes a ìde facto gas tax increaseî that could preempt and maybe doom the passage of a new reauthorization bill. He told the IBC participants that these threats and the continued delays would have negative impacts on the future health and stability of the bridge market.

Ruane said the inertia can be overcome with ìvocal and sustainedî grassroots activity by transportation design and construction firms, public agencies, unions and the business community.