The Birmingham Section started 2015 with a political reception at the Murray Building Co. jobsite at the old Merita Bread Bakery. More than 150 members were in attendance with city and state officials. Everyone enjoyed a tour of the site as well as barbecue from Joe McNabb and Hendrix Chevrolet.

FAST Act Awaits President’s Signature- AGC Webinar Provides Details on – 5 Year Transportation Reauthorization Legislation

After many years of short term extensions and funding patches, Congress has finally passed a 5 year, transportation authorization bill with sufficient revenue to provide annual funding increases for highway and transit construction programs. The bill was approved 359 to 65 in the House, and 83 to 16 in the Senate. The bill now goes to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature. This is the first long term transportation authorization bill since 2005. In addition to funding, the legislation makes many policy improvements that will allow transportation projects to move through the planning and environmental review process more quickly. Please join AGC of America’s staff as they walk you through the key highlights in the bill. 

Speakers Include:

Stephen Sandherr, CEO

Sean O’Neill, Director, Congressional Affairs/Infrastructure Advancement

Brian Deery, Senior Director Highway and Transportation Division

When: Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Time: 11:00 AM Eastern

Follow this link to register for the webinar. You will be given instructions on how to participate with an option to call by phone to listen to audio.

Thank you to those who met with their members of Congress or wrote letters, urging passage of a long-term highway & transit bill.  Hardhats for Highways has generated more than 25,000 letters to Congress.  Please visit Hardhats for Highways and thank your members of Congress for supporting passage of the FAST Act.

AGC and our coalition partners in the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition and the Transportation Construction Coalition urged support for the FAST Act. The Act does not increase the gas tax or create any new on-going revenue source for the Highway Trust Fund but instead continues the trend of general fund transfers off set with non-transportation revenue, allowing the Act to be fully funded through the five year period. The Act calls for adjustments in authorized funding levels should Highway Trust Fund revenue increase or decrease beyond the projected annual income amounts.

The passage of the FAST Act is a tremendous accomplishment and AGC members should be proud of the work that they have done in educating members of Congress of the importance of passing a long-term bill.  However, our job is not done.  The bill does not provide a long-term sustainable solution to the structural imbalance that has plagued the Highway Trust Fund since 2008 and we must immediately get to work and find sustainable funding mechanisms for the Highway Trust Fund.

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provides funding authorization for five years at levels increasing just over 5 percent in FY 2016 and then 2 percent per year starting in FY 2017 through FY 2020 for the highway program. Transit funding jumps 10 percent in FY 2016 but remains relatively flat in subsequent years. 

New Programs: The Act creates a new National Highway Freight Program funded at $1.26 billion per year distributed to states by formula for highway freight improvement projects.  This is not new funding but is intended to direct more resources to freight movement.

A new National Significant Freight and Highway Projects Grant (NSFHP) program is created with funding starting in FY 2016 at $800 million increasing to $1 billion in FY 2020. These are competitive grants and authority for selecting projects to receive the grants is administered by the FHWA. 

It also converts the Surface Transportation Program (STP) to a block grant program, giving states more flexibility in the use of these funds but increasing the amount going to local governments from 50 percent to 55 percent over the life of the bill.

Innovative Financing: The legislation provides funding for the TIFIA credit assistance program starting at $275 million in FY 2016 and increasing to $300 million. While this program had been authorized at $1 billion in FY 2015 but that level of assistance has not been fully used. Allows unused previous funds to be carried over to be used in the TIFIA program. 

Establish a National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau at USDOT to share best practices, share funding and financing opportunities, promote innovative financing, look for ways to reduce funding uncertainty and reduce costs to tax payers.

Project Delivery: The Act continues to make improvements in the environmental review and planning process to expedite project delivery, including giving the U.S. Department of Transportation more authority to set schedules and deadlines. The Act also aligns environmental reviews for historic properties. In addition, the bill creates a pilot program that allows up to five states to substitute their own environmental laws and regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process if the state’s laws and regulations are at least as stringent as NEPA. 

Hours of Service: The Act expands the current exemption to the hours-of-service rule for drivers of construction vehicles, allowing those operating within a 75-mile radius to restart the weekly driving limit after 24 hours of rest, rather than 34 hours, which is the standard for other drivers.  Ready mix concrete delivery drivers are exempted from logging requirements and 30 minute break requirements if they operate within a 100-mile driving radius.

Other FAST Act provisions of interest to the construction industry: 

Creates a new requirement for states to provide an annual report on all projects over $25 million comparing the estimated cost at the beginning of the project with its final cost and includes an explanation about revisions in scope or other factors impacting project costs or overruns. 

Expresses a “Sense of the Congress” that FHWA should do all within its power to protect workers in highway work zones and finalize regulations expanding the use of positive barriers in highway work zones. 

Every day counts initiative is made permanent with the intent of encouraging sharing of information on innovative practices and products that accelerate innovation deployment, shorten delivery process, improve sustainability, enhance roadway safety and reduce congestion 

Provides funding of $15 million in 2016 and $20 million annually in FYs 2017-2020 for grants to states to demonstrate user based alternative revenue mechanisms that utilize a user fee structure to maintain the long term solvency of the highway trust fund.

Directs the USDOT, Transportation Research Board (TRB) and National Academies to cooperatively study actions needed to upgrade and restore Interstate System to its roles as premier system that meets the growing and shifting demands of 21st century.