In April of this year, members of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) gathered in Washington, D.C., for their annual Legislative Briefing & Fly-in. The purpose of this event is for members to discuss the association’s position on transportation policies and to equip members with the resources they need to present the industry’s most pressing roadway safety concerns to members of Congress. This includes ATSSA members holding 120 separate meetings with both House and Senate members on Capitol Hill during the second day of the event.
“The ATSSA Legislative Briefing & Fly-in provides an opportunity for our members to articulate the industry’s message of the importance of addressing or including roadway safety in any type of infrastructure package,” David Bell, ATSSA director of government relations, told Roads & Bridges. “It’s critical that we address roadway safety—in 2016, there were over 36,000 fatalities and even more serious injuries that occurred on the roadways. In addition to that, there were approximately 600-700 work-zone crashes.”
Some of the main goals of this year’s fly-in included members urging lawmakers to come up with a long-term solution to address the Highway Trust Fund, which ATSSA leaders have emphasized is crucial to furthering roadway infrastructure safety projects. “We’re really just looking for something that will keep the Fund solvent into the future,” Bell said. “What we’ve been articulating to members of Congress is to really have something to address the user fees associated with the Fund—so we are supportive of raising the gas and diesel taxes.”
Some of the other issues that ATSSA members were instructed to highlight in their congressional meetings included reminding legislators that the FAST Act, which provided transportation funding from 2016 through 2020 and emphasized safety work, is halfway expired. A major objective for ATSSA is to persuade Congress and the Trump administration to increase funding dedicated to safety projects. The association urges that at least 10% of any new funding for roads and bridges be dedicated to roadway infrastructure safety in the president’s long-anticipated infrastructure package.
With the campaign to move Towards Zero Deaths on U.S. roadways, ATSSA leaders made clear that in order to keep driving down road fatality and crash rates, funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) should continue to be reserved exclusively for infrastructure safety work. ATSSA noted that as HSIP funding increased in all states across the nation between 2006 and 2011, roadway fatalities were reduced by 24%. So ensuring that funding is earmarked for safety projects, and that funding meant for HSIP projects is not diverted to other programs, is critical.
One way in which the safety association hopes lawmakers will take a serious step toward prioritizing safety infrastructure projects is for U.S. representatives to join the bipartisan Road Safety Caucus, which was launched by two members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on different sides of the aisle back in November 2017. The caucus aims to increase awareness of road safety issues and pass relevant legislation in Congress.
For ATSSA members, the fly-in event provided them a chance to have their voice heard by our nation’s legislators and to express their concerns regarding roadway safety by helping members of Congress understand an industry they are working in on a daily basis.