It appears that 2003 will end without funding reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Although Congress extended it for five months in order to keep the program functioning past its expiration, the industry—indeed, the nation—remains on tenterhooks.
In a study released as TEA-21 expired at the end of September, the Texas Transportation Institute reported that congestion in our urban areas increased by more than 270 percent over the past 20 years. And, according to The Road Information Program, states will cut more than $6 billion in projects this year because of the uncertainty of Congress passing an adequate funding bill.
Preliminary findings in Construction Equipment's 2004 Annual Report & Forecast confirm that highway/heavy contractors, government agencies and other construction-equipment-using firms also consider adequate funding a major determinant in next year's business outlook.
We should all be familiar with the reasoning behind the call for increased funding for construction and rehabilitation of our federal highway and transit systems. It's an economic, social and national-security issue that cannot be allowed to be tabled or given short shrift by legislators wrestling with other high-profile and sometimes equally important issues. We must keep highway-funding legislation on the short agenda on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has continuously communicated the importance of funding to members of Congress and the Administration. Together with the Associated General Contractors, ARTBA co-chairs the Transportation Construction Coalition and along with dozens of other groups have pledged to keep communicating with members of Congress in their local districts after the current session adjourns. There is also an excellent website (www.tmaw.com) set up specifically for grass-roots action.
Our leaders must hear from employees in construction firms and state and local government agencies. But they must also hear from everyday citizens. So during the adjournment, point your neighbors and family to Washington, and add their voices to ours.
|Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief, ASBPE Regional Award Winner, 847.954.7923, firstname.lastname@example.org|