The testimony and resulting extensive dialogue was presented at a special public hearing called by the agency to help it identify regulatory burdens, redundancies and inefficiencies and prioritize its regulatory action agenda.
The association’s views were presented by Brian Holmes, executive director of ARTBA state chapter affiliate, the Maryland Highway Contractors Association, ARTBA Vice President & Contractors Division Managing Director Rich Juliano and ARTBA Staff Attorney Nick Goldstein.
Topics covered included:
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Program – Holmes described shortcomings in the DBE program and undue burdens being placed on contractors in executing it.
Contractor Suspension and Debarment – Holmes also reiterated ARTBA’s strong opposition to contractors being suspended from eligibility to bid on federal-aid transportation projects for alleged crimes without receiving due process under law.
Clean Air Act Conformity – ARTBA stressed the need for USDOT to aggressively promote transportation interests when they intersect with environmental regulatory policymaking. Goldstein pointed out that the transportation sector is being penalized, not recognized in the rulemaking process, for the significant contribution it has made to air quality improvement. He warned that without deadline synchronicity for multiple Environmental Protection Agency requirements, counties across the nation will not be able to meet conformity requirements, which could significantly delay hundreds of major transportation projects.
Environmental Process Streamlining – Goldstein expressed ARTBA’s support for FHWA’s actions in this area under the Bush Administration while urging the USDOT be designated as the lead agency for environmental reviews of transportation projects and that certain reviews be delegated to the states. Also addressed was the need for more coordination and reliability in the planning process, time limits for lawsuits and a dispute resolution process.
Historic Preservation – ARTBA applauded the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently issued guidance on this subject, but urged that the 4(f) process be consolidated with it. Goldstein also expressed support for administratively exempting the Interstate Highway System from historic preservation requirements, but recommended such an exemption also be written into law.
Hours of Service – ARTBA again pressed arguments for exempting transportation construction firms from federal hours-of-service regulations. Juliano presented numerous examples on how the regulations unnecessarily reduce contractor productivity – with no safety benefits – because their drivers “run out of hours” during the workweek.