AASHTO asks Congress for transportation, infrastructure support

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The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) wants Congress to provide more than $16 billion in supplemental funding, and to waive truck weight restrictions to deal with the coronavirus.

In a letter to Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), as well as Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jim Tymon, executive director of AASHTO, asked Congress to take immediate steps to help transportation officials respond to the national crisis created by the virus, also known as COVID-19.

Tymon said the first and most immediate step would be to waive truck weight restrictions to help truckers deliver emergency supplies.

“AASHTO Requests Congress to authorize the Secretary of Transportation to grant a temporary nationwide waiver of the federally-mandated maximum vehicle weights for the National System of Defense Highways for the delivery of emergency relief supplies…,” he said in a March 18 letter. “By allowing state DOTs to establish temporary maximum weights under this waiver that accounts for bridge capacities on their highway system, this action will greatly aid in timely interstate transportation of urgently needed medical supply and essential goods such as food and water to address the COVID-19 outbreaks.”

The waiver would last only as long as President Trump’s National Emergency was in place, he said.

Additionally, he asked for $16.7 billion in federal funding to support state DOTs in maintaining their transportation systems, in light of projected reduction in revenues. He asked for an additional $978 million in funding for Amtrak to keep the national rail system operating.

Lastly, Tymon asked Congress to put a priority on funding infrastructure investment in the future to put people back to work and stimulate the economy.

“Despite substantial and recurring funding challenges facing transportation, the investment backlog for transportation infrastructure continues to increase—reaching $786 billion for highways and bridges and $116 billion for transit according to the United States Department of Transportation. We recognize that the shock to our nation’s economic outlook due to COVID-19 is serious and will require substantial time and effort for recovery to degrees even greater than what was experienced during the Great Recession. Increased investment in transportation infrastructure has time and again proven to provide the optimal boost to the economy during a major crisis—and these benefits go well beyond short-term construction jobs maintained and supported,” he wrote. “As you consider additional federal responses to expedite economic recovery, we urge Congress to direct robust resources to transportation, which will enable businesses to manage inventories and move goods more cheaply, access a variety of suppliers and markets for their products, and get employees reliably to work. Ultimately, by doubling down on transportation investment, American families and businesses will be able to get back on their feet much sooner than in the absence of action to shore up our capital needs in transportation.”