That is the message Pete Ruane, CEO of American Road & Transportation Association (ARTBA), gave to a group of Southern California Contractors Association (SCCA) members recently in Anaheim. Ruane is traveling throughout the U.S. to meet with national and local transportation and construction industry associations at the grass roots level to get his message across.
"We are facing a crisis in the national transportation funding area, as not seen in my 30 years in this industry. By the end of 2008, it is possible that funding for the Highway Trust Fund could dry up. Believe it or not, the Fund has been labeled by congressional leaders as a federal program that is 'at risk.'"
"Given our national budget situation — we in this highway and transit and construction industry are looking at an uphill climb bigger than anything we have ever faced for re-authorization."
Because of this, Ruane is urging listeners — especially Californians — to get involved in the political process by getting to know their U.S. congressional leaders and senators who are on the authorizing committees in Washington, D.C.
As for California's clean air initiatives (CARB), Ruane said ARTBA is committed to making sure its collective voice will be heard in this state. "We know that as California goes, so goes the nation," he said. He offered that if need be, a legal challenge may be pushed in California to determine whether local air districts have the right to impose more stringent clean air rules than those mandated by the federal government. As it is, ARTBA has recently filed a lawsuit (ARTBA v. EPA) against the Environmental Protection Agency. Says Ruane, "We believe that the states generally do not have the legal right to set clean air rules; those rules should be set by the national government.
"What is happening," he said, "is that California taxpayers passed recent bond measures to get infrastructure and highways up to speed, but they could be brought to a halt," if overly zealous CARB rules become difficult, if not impossible, to comply with by the very construction companies contracted to perform the work.
"The government needs to recognize the contradiction that is inherent in all this. On the one hand, California just increased the level of resources available to deal with all the transportation problems in this state (i.e. recently passed Propositions 1A and 1B). On the other hand, legislation is being considered (CARB issues) that could slow down the actual implementation of those projects. So they have to reconcile that contradiction," he said.