Transportation reauthorization: The road to nowhere?

Therese Dunphy

January 1, 2010

By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor

Federal investments in highways and transit systems are expected to decline by more than $15 billion this year compared to 2009, according to an analysis of transportation spending trends conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The association predicted an estimated 19.3-percent drop in federal formula and stimulus funding for transportation.

According to the analysis, the federal government invested $78.6 billion in road and transit construction projects in 2009, which included $51 billion in regular federal transportation funding and $27.6 billion in stimulus funding. The analysis predicts federal funding for highway and transit construction will only total $63.4 billion in 2010 — $9.8 billion will come from the remaining stimulus transportation funds and the rest from regular transportation funding.

The AGC states that non-stimulus federal transportation funds are stuck at near current levels because Congress has failed to pass a six-year surface transportation bill, leaving transportation funding at levels well below what multiple, independent, bipartisan commissions estimate are needed to keep pace with the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.

A study conducted for the association found that every billion dollars invested in infrastructure projects creates or sustains an estimated 28,500 jobs and, based on that study, the $15.2 billion decline in highway and transit investments next year could result in more than 430,000 layoffs.

In response to the lack of funding and possible job losses, the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) launched a multi-media ad campaign calling on Congress and the administration to create thousands of long-term, sustainable American jobs by passing a new six-year highway/transit authorization bill. The campaign included a print ad that ran in Capitol Hill publications such as Roll Call, National Journal, Congress Daily, Congressional Quarterly, and Politico for several weeks, as well as in the Washington Post on Dec. 3 during President Obama’s national “Jobs Summit.” Sixty-second radio ads also ran on the day of the jobs summit during the morning “drive time” on WTOP, a news talk radio station in Washington, D.C.

In addition, the TCC organized a nationwide call-in on Dec. 10 to urge Congressional action on a highway reauthorization bill. A call to action was sent out to all state aggregates associations by the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) to call their senators and representatives to remind them that the expired Highway and Transit program authorization needed to be addressed.

In the meantime, David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), who leads the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have pitched Democratic leadership on the idea of using approximately $100 billion in general fund money to pay for highway and transit projects over the next two years, according to the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers. The money could be approved as part of a stand-alone bill or included in an expected bill that Democratic House leaders said would be aimed directly at creating jobs.

According to NSSGA’s eDigest & Washington Watch newsletter, Oberstar and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) held news conferences calling for action on surface transportation authorization. Boxer planned to submit a proposal that would include transportation infrastructure investment in jobs.

At Aggregates Manager press time, reported that the Senate had passed a one-year, $1.1 trillion spending bill with increased budgets for several areas, including $41 billion for highway construction; and according to NSSGA’s newsletter, President Obama was expected to sign a $75 billion jobs bill that included $48 billion in new infrastructure spending, including $37.3 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, of which highways and bridges would receive $27.5 billion. The bill included an extension of core highway programs through Sept. 30.

Lafarge wins Colorado reclamation and safety awards

Lafarge North America’s West US Aggregates division recently received the top three safety awards presented at the annual Colorado Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (CSSGA) awards ceremony, along with an additional 12 recognition certificates for each of the company’s mines that had gone 12 months without any injuries resulting in restricted or lost time.

The CSSGA awarded Lafarge’s Specification Aggregates Quarry in Golden, Colo., with the 2009 Jack Stamer Memorial Reclamation Award, sponsored by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety, which recognizes outstanding reclamation of aggregate/construction material operations.

In a company news release, Sabine Hillenmeyer, vice president and general manager for Lafarge’s West US Aggregates division, said, “At Lafarge, we take our commitment to safety and the environment seriously, and it is gratifying to have that recognized by our industry peers. Receiving this award means that we are succeeding in our efforts and, ideally, these efforts are making a difference.”

The quarry incorporates innovative mining techniques into ongoing reclamation activities. Each technique used to mine, contour, revegetate, and reclaim the site was specifically tailored to conform with native surroundings while leaving a natural and beautiful terrain once mining is complete.

Martin Marietta announces organizational changes

Martin Marietta Material’s Board of Directors announced that Chairman and CEO Stephen P. Zelnak, Jr. will retire mid-year 2010 after leading the company for more than 27 years. Howard (Ward) Nye will become CEO effective Jan. 1, 2010, and has been elected to the board of directors of the company. Zelnak will continue as executive chairman of the board until his retirement and then become non-executive chairman of the board.

“I am very proud of our company’s many accomplishments over the years and the great management team we have assembled,” Zelnak commented about the change. “In particular, recruiting Ward Nye three years ago has ensured that we will have a seamless transition to the next generation of leadership. Ward is an exceptional executive who is ready to lead Martin Marietta to a successful future. He and his team have my full support.”

“It is a singular honor to succeed Steve Zelnak and lead the great company he built,” said Nye. “Steve’s track record speaks for itself, and he has laid an extraordinary foundation from which we will continue to grow. I look forward to continuing to work with Steve on our board, and with the management team and people of Martin Marietta to achieve our goals.” 

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