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Capitol Agenda for the Week of March 21: Bridges Aren't Making the Grade

The week ahead for trucking on Capitol Hill

Seven bridges along Interstate 70 in Indiana’s Hancock and Henry counties will undergo repairs this year. The state's department of transportation announced it had awarded $7.2 million to a contractor based in Indianapolis to repair deck overlays on the bridges along the freight corridor. The Hoosier State is aggressively targeting infrastructure repairs, and state lawmakers acknowledge a need to come up with additional funds. This month, they’re considering raising taxes on fuel by 10 cents per gallon, arguing they can’t wait for a boost in federal funds. States such as Indiana and myriad infrastructure stakeholders are waiting for the $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan President Trump promised to deliver during his first 100 days in office.

But while they wait for the plan to hit Capitol Hill, the American Society of Civil Engineers is proposing a quicker approach for funding big-scale infrastructure projects: approve a 25-cent increase in the federal fuel tax. The group of engineers called for the tax increase at its unveiling of the quadrennial report card this month. The report card gave the country’s infrastructure a D+. ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith told Transport Topics this week he recognized not many Republican leaders in Congress would back an increase in the federal fuel tax. He also questioned the White House’s support of transportation after it had unveiled its “skinny” budget proposal for fiscal 2018. “I would not be pulling back infrastructure investments,” Smith said. “We’re trying to maintain a D+ right now. And if we pull out the infrastructure investment that we have right now in the current budget and then rely on something unforeseen [and] undefined in the future, we’re concerned about that.”

Trump’s request would reduce discretionary transportation funding by 12.7%, to $16.2 billion from $18.6 billion. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants for infrastructure projects would not be funded. Congress approved $500 million in fiscal 2016 for the Obama-era grants. In ASCE’s report card, bridges garnered a C+ grade, due to the number of bridges approaching the end of their design life. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association unveiled a similar study earlier this year, in which they found there are 185 million daily crossings on nearly 56,000 structurally deficient bridges.

ASCE

THE WEEK AHEAD (all times EDT):

March 21, 8 a.m.: Axios holds a discussion on infrastructure with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

March 21, 9:30 a.m.: The Eno Center for Transportation hosts a discussion on "Delivering Modern Air Traffic Control" at the National Press Club with former Secretary of Transportation Jim Burnley, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Eno’s president and CEO, Robert Puentes.

Delaney via Bloomberg News

March 21, 10 a.m.: The House Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee hosts a discussion on "Emerging Railroad Technologies."

March 21, 10 a.m.: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hosts a hearing on infrastructure in federal lands.

March 21, noon: The Aspen Institute hosts a panel on "Building Good Jobs into America's Infrastructure Investments." Speakers include Denise Fairchild, president and CEO of the Emerald Cities Collaborative; Charles Moore, vice president and director of community relations at Swinerton Inc.; Camden, New Jersey, Mayor Dana Redd; and Adie Tomer, fellow in the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.

March 22, 9:30 a.m.: Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) hosts a pen-and-pad to discuss his Partnership to Build America Act, a bill that would create an infrastructure fund to finance state and local projects.

March 22-25: Kenworth Truck Co. and Peterbilt Motors Co., both units of Paccar Inc., as well as Mack Trucks, which is part of Volvo Group, headline this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

GHG: Trailers purchased by fleets in 2018 must comply with Phase 2 of the greenhouse-gas rule from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but there will be a menu of equipment options for achieving compliance.

GOV REFORM: Suggestions from the public on how to enhance efficiency at federal agencies will be collected during the next six months, according to an executive order President Trump signed.

TIGER: The U.S. Department of Transportation grants designed to assist states and municipalities with advancing significant infrastructure projects would be denied funds under President Trump’s fiscal 2018 “skinny” budget proposal unveiled March 16.

WHAT WE’RE READING:

In Governing magazine, Elizabeth Beardsley, senior policy counsel at the U.S. Green Building Council, examines the outlook for cities if funding for U.S. EPA is significantly reduced.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“This so-called ‘skinny’ budget exposes the big fat lies President Trump has told the American people when it comes to rebuilding our transportation infrastructure. I would pronounce it dead on arrival, but my Republican colleagues have beat me to the punch.”

— Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on March 16.

FAVORITE VIDEO:

Mad Money’s Jim Cramer and U.S. Concrete Inc. CEO Bill Sandbrook review Trump’s call for investments in infrastructure.

FAVORITE TWEET:

Ouch. With Villanova out, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune’s bracket is not looking so good.

Thanks for reading Capitol Agenda! We publish Tuesdays when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

By Eugene Mulero
Staff Reporter


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