Shipping and Logistics

Long-term Highway Bill Passes Committee

Written by Sandy Williams

The nation’s highways received some much needed attention last week. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill to provide up to $325 billion for transportation projects over the next six years.

The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015 (H.R.3763) would authorize $261 billion for highways, $55 billion for transit and $9 billion for safety programs. Although the bill covers a six year span, new legislation would be required to “unlock” additional funding after three years.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) called the committee vote “a positive step forward for our nation’s transportation system and our economy.”

The STRR Act moves next to the House and then Senate for discussion and approval. Funding will still need to be secured before the bill can be implemented. The federal government spends about $50 billion annually on roads but the current gas tax funding brings in only about $34 billion per year. Proposed remedies to bridge the gap have included raising the gas tax or sourcing revenue from corporate tax reform.

The American Iron and Steel Institute hailed the Committee’s passage of the bill.

“The House Transportation committee, led by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), made good progress toward fixing our crumbling infrastructure by passing this long-awaited multi-year authorization bill, and we commend their dedication and commitment to bipartisanship,” said AISI President and CEO Thomas J. Gibson. “This bill benefits the steel industry by creating an environment for the quick delivery of projects and by providing the certainty needed for long-term, steel-intensive highway and bridge projects to break ground.”

The American Trucking Association urged the House to bring the bill, with funding, to the floor as soon as possible.

ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said, “Yesterday’s actions by Chairman Shuster, Ranking Member DeFazio and the rest of the Committee were a positive step for trucking and for the country. While we’re anxious to see the funding portion of the bill, the roadmap laid out by this legislation is a good one for highway safety and efficiency.”

During the Nucor’s third quarter earnings call, CEO John Ferriola called the nation’s infrastructure an “embarrassment.” “Thirty, forty, fifty years ago our country was known for infrastructure,” said Ferriola. “People came here to study how we build bridges, and today you look at it and overall our bridges, our infrastructure as a whole, just recently received a D+.”

Ferriola suggested, “Frankly, with the price of oil where it is today and the resulting price of gasoline at the pump…this would be a great time to just put a little bump onto the tax, to the tax rate on gasoline, and use that money to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of this country.”

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