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ATSSA Town Hall breaks down IIJA funding, timing

‘Gas tax holidays’ raise concerns, not expected at federal level

Five months after the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law, it’s understandable ATSSA members could be wondering when the money will begin flowing to projects across the country.

That was one of the key discussion points today during an ATSSA Town Hall on the “Economic Impact of the Infrastructure Package on ATSSA Member Companies.”

ATSSA Vice President of Engagement Nate Smith and Kathy Ruffalo, president of consulting firm Ruffalo & Associates, reviewed the funds expected through different programs, the steps to get them accessible and when the first money can be expected.

Companies should start seeing opportunities for funding in May for the Safe Streets for All program, a competitive grant program that receives $5 billion through IIJA, Smith said. That funding can go toward Vision Zero programs to address things such as bike lanes and pedestrian safety in local communities, he said.

 A new program for wildlife crossing mitigation, which is to receive $350 million over five years, will be available at some point beyond May.

Roadway safety projects will receive a total of $30 billion over five years under the IIJA, Smith said. The largest funding goes to the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) ($16.8 billion over five years), which will go to states based on a formula.

Rural road safety will receive $300 million over five years and will go toward mitigating against roadway departures, a key area for ATSSA members and their work in the roadway safety infrastructure industry. Those funds also are grant related.

Tribal road safety funding doubled under IIJA, rising to $120 million over five years.

Pedestrian security, another new category, will receive $25 million over five years and is meant to address things such as protecting people on sidewalks from getting struck by vehicles.

The final category for roadway safety funding falls under Transportation Alternatives and was allotted $7.2 billion over five years for programs such as safe routes to school.

Smith said the fiscal 2022 appropriations were signed recently and funds are now available. However, he noted that the Biden administration is pushing a fix-it-first strategy rather than new construction.

He said ATSSA disagrees with that approach and asked members to contact the Government Relations Team if they encounter obstacles to obtaining funds. The team will then notify their contacts on Capitol Hill on the members’ behalf.

Funds for each of the grant programs should be getting disbursed over the coming year.

In addition, the roadway safety industry got another bit of good news with a $10 billion bipartisan proposal for a COVID-19 relief package that would provide states and localities flexibility for American Rescue Plan Act funds for infrastructure. The plan was announced Monday.

Ruffalo noted that funding for the Nov. 15 IIJA wasn’t appropriated until March 15 and it wasn’t until Friday that states received authorization to start spending. She noted the importance of the timing, especially in the northern states where spring construction season needs to get rolling before the next round of cold weather begins.

She noted that states have until August to obligate their funds for projects.

She said one delay for getting money through advanced appropriations has been a staffing shortage at the U.S. Department of Transportation, which seeks to hire more than 1,000 people to handle discretionary grants and advanced appropriations.

Shifting gears, Smith noted that material and workforce shortages continue to plague the industry. He said ATSSA will be doing a survey soon to find out where shortages remain. He also asked members to contact him to share how these challenges are impacting their ability to complete work. He will then relay that information to the Biden administration.

Smith also addressed the issue of gas tax suspension proposals both in Congress and in states across the country and reminded members that ATSSA is working against these proposals.

Connecticut, Maryland and Georgia have already acted on short-term suspensions, and Virginia is among states discussing the issue.

“We are very concerned about these gas tax holidays,” Smith said. But he added that he was “cautiously optimistic” no action will be taken at the federal level.

A recording of today’s Town Hall will be available soon. Check here for the recording of this Town Hall and prior events.

Send input and questions to the Government Relations Team at govrelations@atssa.com.

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