March 2009 – AggBeat
Dr. Pete Ruane, president and CEO of ARTBA, added: “The real war lies ahead in aviation and with reauthorization. But we’ve learned a lot from battles with the stimulus. We’ve gained critical traction for making a series of recommendations about the reauthorization.”
In the final economic recovery package measure, $27.5 billion is dedicated for highway activities, but there are many sub-allocations as part of the allotment, so the highway and bridge construction market won’t see all of this money for infrastructure investment. For example, $840 million is allocated to administrative and operational set-asides. The remaining $26.6 billion must be apportioned within 21 days to states via a hybrid formula – half the Surface Transportation Program formula and half SAFETEA-LU 2008 highway program formula. Of those funds, nearly $800 million will be set aside for the Transportation Enhancement Program. The remaining total will be split with $18.10 billion (70 percent) under state control and $7.76 billion (30 percent) under local control.
Bauer also pointed out that “one of the cornerstones of the economic recovery package is the ‘use it or lose it’ mentality.” States are required to obligate 50 percent of the highway funds within 120 days or the uncommitted funds will be redistributed to other states. Local funds are exempt from the 120-day short-term deadline, but if they aren’t used within a year, they can be redistributed. Unlike the federal highway program, which requires a 20-percent state match, all funds are up to 100-percent federally matched. States may elect to use their own funds for parts of projects.
Additional funding for highways and bridges also is available through a new $1.5 billion Discretionary Surface Transportation program developed to fund large transportation projects of various modes with costs between $20 million and $300 million. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood may allocate $200 million of these funds for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act credit assistance program.
Even with the injection of infrastructure funds through the stimulus package, America still faces a major deficit in highway funding. The Highway Trust Fund is teetering on empty with money from the general trust fund having been transferred into it late last year to keep it from going in the red.
But if the Safe, Accountable, Efficient Transportation Act – A Legacy for User (SAFETEA-LU) expires on Sept. 30 as it is set to do, America will be facing another uphill battle as the industry fights for the funding it needs to just maintain the current system and hope for additional funding to improve the system.
- by Tina Grady Barbaccia
MSHA targets safety
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) plans to combat the numerous fatalities plaguing the mining industry with its new Safety Target Packages program. According to an MSHA newsletter, a review by the Applied Engineering Division of every mining fatality that occurred since 2000 identified the 10 leading categories for both coal and metal/non-metal mines and found that these categories accounted for 75 percent of all mining fatalities. The safety packages will contain specific hazard awareness information to address the leading causes of fatalities for each specific category. The packages will be mailed to the safety directors of appropriate mining operations throughout 2009 and 2010 to help educate every miner who performs the specific activity within the categories.
MSHA says it believes that through increased awareness and education, the recurring incidents can be eliminated. It also believes that hazard awareness should be a continual focus for all mining operations. The Safety Target Packages will provide hazard awareness information to educate miners as they move from one position to another and as new miners join the work force.