Working To Increase Highway Funding - AED in Washington
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Working To Increase Highway Funding

Construction Equipment Distribution, January 2005

Article Date: 01-01-2005
Copyright (C) 2005 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

TRIP and AED continue to work for federal surface transportation legislation.

With a new Congress and renewed concern about the federal budget deficit, TRIP continues to partner with AED and other industry groups to push for federal surface transportation legislation that will meet our nation's documented transportation infrastructure needs.

Those needs are staggering. According to the most recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), we need to spend at least $375 billion at the federal level over the next six years to see even a slight improvement in the condition and performance of the nation's highway, bridge and transit network.

Unfortunately, after improving in the late 1990s due to additional federal funding from the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), pavement conditions nationally have started to slip again. And congestion affects more people and places than ever.

The federal investment levels proposed last year by the House, Senate and Bush Administration didn't come close to meeting the U.S. DOT's $375 billion needs assessment. And complicating the process is a growing budget deficit and reluctance by fiscally conservative lawmakers to raise taxes ("user fees") to address the nation's growing surface transportation "deficit."

This was spelled out at a recent meeting of the TRIP Board of Directors when three Congressional staff members briefed the board on a number of the issues at play in this reauthorization. All three said their bosses were not hearing enough from their constituents at home about the need to increase federal spending to improve the nation's roads, bridges and transit systems.

Our industry is well aware Americans take their road and bridge network for granted. That is why TRIP was formed. TRIP is the only organization that focuses exclusively on publicizing, through the news media, the needs of our highway transportation system and its importance to our economy and quality of life.

Many AED members are familiar with AED's close partnership with this Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research group that has been conducting grassroots public education programs on behalf of the highway industry for more than 30 years.

"TRIP is the public relations arm of the highway construction industry and is very successful in getting our industry's messages in the news and in front of the public and their elected leaders," said AED senior vice president and TRIP board member Walter Berry, president of Berry Companies. "TRIP-generated news coverage has appeared on network television news broadcasts, their affiliates in numerous cities and in newspapers across the country."

AED and its members have partnered with TRIP and supported its public education programs, both monetarily and through AED's volunteer leadership on the TRIP board of directors, since its inception. This has enabled TRIP to produce and release more than 500 research reports over the years generating news coverage in all 50 states.

Two years ago, TRIP launched a media campaign called Truths About Transportation in the 21st Century (TRUTHS-21) to publicize the need for long-term reauthorization of TEA-21 at a level of funding that would improve our nation's roads and bridges. TRUTHS-21 has generated more than a thousand television, newspaper and radio stories across the country since that time.

"We have release more than 20 customized reports at nearly 50 news conferences throughout the country as part of our grassroots public education campaign," said TRIP's executive director William M. Wilkins. "The resulting news coverage publicized the impact of substandard roads and bridges on safety, mobility and economic competitiveness."

In addition to its extensive state programs, TRIP has taken advantage of critical times in the reauthorization process to release national reports focusing on the need for increased federal funding. TRIP most recently released reports on urban road conditions and traffic congestion, and the ramifications of the nation's rapidly increasing truck traffic.

TRIP's trucking report emphasizes the need for a national freight policy in the next federal surface transportation legislation to help the country accommodate projected increases in large truck travel on an overburdened road and bridge system safely and efficiently.

The report also focuses on the significance of trucking to the country's economic well being and the importance of maintaining the logistics advantage businesses in the United States have over international competitors.

TRIP's urban roads report finds one out of four of the nation's major metropolitan roads has pavement in poor condition, resulting in rough rides and costing the average urban motorist $400 annually. The report focuses on the role the increase in urban traffic plays in adding to the wear and tear on the nation's urban roads.

Congressional "Road Show"
TRIP was approached by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and asked to tailor talking points for committee members to use in a series of fact-finding visits scheduled throughout the country. TRIP analyzed data on safety, congestion, economic growth and increased transportation investment to produce the talking points.

The "Road Show," as it was dubbed, included more than 20 members of the committee, including Representatives Petri and Oberstar. TRIP's points were utilized by members on visits to Atlanta, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.

TRIP regularly updates its national and state fact sheets for the industry's use in delivering key reauthorization messages. The fact sheets cover funding, road and bridge conditions, safety, congestion and economic development, using the latest federal data available.

The fact sheets are distributed to national and state industry associations to aid them in communicating the highway construction industry's messages to members of Congress and state lawmakers.

"TRIP's fact sheets are consistently the most valuable tool we have in our arsenal as we work to make the case for increased highway funding on Capitol Hill, said Christian Klein, AED Washington counsel.

At the request of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC), TRIP developed four ads for placement in Capitol Hill publications at strategic times during the reauthorization process. TRIP and AED are both members of the TCC, a group of 28 national associations and labor unions created to lobby for highway funding in the federal surface transportation legislation.

The overall theme of the TCC advertising campaign is: "Build a better, safer, stronger America," and the ads convey the need for additional transportation funding by focusing on economic development, safety and congestion.

"TRIP is a highly credible research group that continues to play a crucial role in our industry's efforts to win increased highway funding by all levels of government," says Berry. "AED has been a long time partner of TRIP, and we look forward to continuing and strengthening our relationship in this critical time for our industry.

"TRIP has plans to expand its national and grassroots reauthorization efforts in the coming months. AED members can help by becoming involved. Help bring TRIP into your state if they are not there already and consider making a tax-deductible contribution to TRIP."


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