The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has voiced its support of new legislation called the DRIVE Act, passed by a Senate committee on Wednesday, that would fund the Highway Trust Fund for six years.
“Finally, we have a piece of legislation to advance with road, bridge and infrastructure projects,” said Bailey Wood, NSSGA spokesman. “Congress has been delinquent and frustrated many stakeholders in the business. It’s about time we move forward. The nation can only take so many Highway Trust Fund extensions before the damage is done, and some say it has already been done.”
Matt Jeanneret, a spokesman for ARTBA, said, “The legislation gives us a path forward. If the Senate, that now has the bill, acts quickly, that will send a message to the House. If they can agree on a funding source something could happen on this as soon as next month.”
The bi-partisan legislation, which was unanimously passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), would fund the upkeep and expansion of the nation’s roads, highways and bridges. While the bill would increase funding over its predecessor, MAP-21, it will be up to the Senate Finance Committee to find the necessary funding sources.
The DRIVE Act increases highway spending from $37.8 billion under the current MAP-21 to $45.5 billion in 2021. Over six years, $257.5 billion would be sent to the states, according to the NSSGA.
EPW Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a written statement that the DRIVE Act would help set the tone for America’s economic future by putting the nation back on the map as the best place to do business.
Jeanneret said if the legislation passes, his organization’s members, who build roads, could start making capital investments and hire new employees.
“Passing the legislation we’ll have a recipe for economic stimulation that will break the gridlock, knowing there’s a path ahead for the next six years,” Jeanneret said.
Due to MAP-21’s numerous extensions in recent years and uncertainty surrounding federal funding, many states have delayed transportation projects. The Highway Trust Fund's current patch is set to expire July 31. If Congress doesn’t pass legislation by the July 31 deadline, it will have to patch the fund again or it will go insolvent.
“That can has been kicked so much that it’s bruised, battered and no longer recognizable,” Jeanneret said.
Wood said because aggregates are used to build roads, if the legislation passes, that means jobs and economic development to his organization’s membership.
“It takes about 38,000 tons of aggregate to build one mile of four-lane highway,” Wood said. “If the legislation passes it will help to build the aggregate industry since more building means a call for more aggregate,” he said.
Wood added nothing significant in this country is built without a rock. “And highways are no different, we’ve got to build our economy and road construction is one of the best ways to do that.”