Transport Construction Industry Mobilizes for Oberstar’s Bill

Acrimonious opposition to health care reform has become
the biggest political story of an otherwise sleepy August, but that
doesn’t mean grassroots lobbying on the House’s transportation bill has evaporated.

transportation_makes_america_work.jpg(Image: ARTBA)

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), which represents major construction companies, released a bulletin
to members today urging them to connect with members of Congress in
support of quick action on a long-term transportation bill next month.

Referencing lawmakers’ reluctance to debate new funding
sources for federal infrastructure investment, ARTBA suggested telling
Congress to "make generating sufficient revenue for a $450 billion bill
a priority."

That price tag matches the legislation
released by House transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN)
in June, which is headed for consideration by the full panel after
Congress returns from its recess. Getting through to the tax-writing
Ways and Means Committee, as ARTBA mentions, is a crucial step for
Oberstar allies; if that panel does not put forth recommendations on how to pay for the bill, the transport measure could stall before reaching the full House.

While
ARTBA and Oberstar are aligned on the timeframe for proceeding with a
new transportation bill, the construction group is not on board with
all of the chairman’s priorities. ARTBA opposes giving state and local governments the ability to "flex" highway funds into transit projects better suited for their needs.

ARTBA’s transit policy also states that the 80-20 distribution of federal gas tax revenues to highway and transit projects
"sets a fair modal balance which should be maintained." Oberstar’s new legislation alters that balance only slightly, creating an estimated 78-22 split between highways and transit, respectively.

The
construction industry isn’t the only transportation player working on
grassroots lobbying during the congressional recess. The pro-transit Transportation for America
(T4A) is fanning out to contact lawmakers through its member groups and
plans bulletins of its own in the coming days, spokesman David Goldberg
said in an interview.

As for where T4A stands on the timing for a long-term transport bill, Goldberg added:

We
want to pass a bill that contains the important, major reforms, and if
it takes a few more weeks or months, we should take the time. What we
don’t want to see is a long delay where this falls off the radar. If
there’s going to be reform, we have to keep the conversation going.

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