Optimism in the air over infrastructure bill

October 25, 2021

While there has been no movement in Washington on the bipartisan $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill, there is a growing sense among congressional leaders that negotiations on the companion “reconciliation” bill are bearing fruit, and that perhaps a consensus is near.

President Biden has already conceded that his original $3.5 trillion proposal, which embodies his public policy agenda, has shrunk as lawmakers debate what needs to remain in the bill, what should come out of it and for how long the programs should be funded in order to bring the overall cost down.

The progressive Democrats have been holding the infrastructure bill hostage, threatening to defeat it if too many social programs that they want are cut from the reconciliation measure. A reconciliation bill escapes the Senate filibuster rules and would therefore pass if it received all 50 Democratic votes, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

For an article that sums up where things recently stand, follow this link.


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Transportation issues update

October 7, 2021

As October arrives, there has been a flurry of activity in Washington pertaining to transportation.

First, the good news. Congressional leaders have agreed to a short-term measure to raise the debt ceiling into early December, dissolving an impasse that some believe could have plunged the U.S. economy into recession. The issue will need to be addressed again before the end of the year, however.

Additionally, Congress approved and President Biden signed a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown that could have occurred as the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.

Still unsettled is the trillion-dollar-plus bipartisan infrastructure bill, which seems to have become less bipartisan as House Republicans are using it to express their displeasure with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has gotten friendlier with Democrats and supports the infrastructure measure.

Then there’s President Biden’s decidedly partisan $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” initiative, which includes an array of social programs and climate initiatives, along with additional infrastructure projects. The initiative has drawn criticism from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

For his part, President Biden has conceded that the $3.5 trillion price tag on his plan is likely to be reduced, but its connection with the smaller infrastructure package is drawing resistance from progressives who support the $3.5 trillion spending plan, which is drawing resistance from moderates who say it’s simply too expensive.

Democratic leaders insist that both bills will pass, but at this point, neither has the votes due to the convoluted situation described above, and negotiations continue. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, a national transportation trade association tracking this situation, remains optimistic that the bipartisan infrastructure bill will prevail.

Back in Harrisburg, the transportation topic quieted down this week following a House Transportation Committee hearing last week on PennDOT’s Public-Private Partnership proposal. Most of those who testified spoke in opposition to the plan, which would impose tolls on as many as nine major bridges set for refurbishment or replacement.


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PennDOT’s P-3 major bridge initiative advances

September 23, 2021

It appears that PennDOT is moving forward with its public-private partnership major bridge initiative, having selected three teams to advance to the proposal submission stage.

The teams invited to submit proposals are:

Bridging Pennsylvania Partners, consisting of: Macquarie Infrastructure Developments LLC; Shikun & Binui Concessions USA Inc; STV Incorporated; FCC Construccion, S.A.; Shikun & Binui – America, Inc; and SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc.

Keystone Pathway Developers, consisting of: Kiewit (Development Company, Engineering Group Inc., and Infrastructure Co., dba Keystone Pathway Constructors); Star America PA Bridges, LLC; and Urban Engineers Inc.

Keystone Pathways Mobility Partners, consisting of: Cintra Infrastructures SE, Itinera Infrastructure and Concessions Inc.; Halmar International LLC and North Tarrant Infrastructure, LLC (unincorporated joint venture); Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.; and KS Engineers, P.C. Read more

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Infrastructure bill survives Democrats’ differences

August 27, 2021

The proposed $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill survived a tenuous couple of weeks before U.S. House members agreed on a path toward considering that measure and a partisan $3.5 trillion budget bill that is not likely to draw any Republican support.

Both measures advanced on a 220-212 party line vote as House leadership promised a vote on the infrastructure measure by Sept. 27, appeasing nine centrist Democrats who wanted the infrastructure bill to be considered before the budget resolution.

The budget measure is being set up to require only Democratic votes in both the House and Senate. The budget legislation includes nearly all of the party’s agenda and is viewed as too expensive by GOP members.

To read the CNBC news account, follow this link.



TROC submits report to Governor Wolf

August 2, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Transportation Revenue Options Commission completed its assigned task, submitting its report to the governor last week.

While several of the recommendations still require fleshing out, the transportation construction industry strongly endorsed three of the recommendations for which it has been advocating for some time:

  • The report recommended completely removing the State Police from the Motor License Fund, which would restore the equivalent of 11 cents per gallon specifically for road and bridge improvements, without raising the state gasoline tax. The MLF has been subsidizing about three-quarters of the State Police operations annually.
  • The report also calls for establishing a fee for electric vehicles, which currently do not contribute to repairing the wear and tear they cause to roads and bridges. While such a fee would contribute a relatively small amount for road and bridge upkeep initially, vehicle manufacturers across the globe are moving toward a transition to EVs in the near future.
  • Given the considerable growth in the delivery economy, the Commission recommended establishing fees for products delivered to homes and businesses. It appears that these fees could be relatively small, yet would raise substantial revenue for building and maintaining transportation infrastructure.

Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, while also strongly supporting replacement of the state gas tax with a Commission-recommended mileage-based fee, said that transition may be several years away and would require federal leadership to coordinate the system among the states. Until then, APC said, the current federal and state consumption-based fuel taxes will continue to be the most dependable source of transportation funding.

PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian has suggested that policymakers may begin working on the legislative aspects of the report as soon as this fall. Implementing most or all of the recommendations will take several years.

The final TROC report can be found at this link.