A major part of advancing roadway safety infrastructure is advocating for policies on the federal level. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act — a bill that funds and authorizes U.S. federal surface transportation spending — is set to expire on September 30, 2020, and will need reauthorization. Additionally, one of the main goals of the current administration is to pass an infrastructure package.
“We are working with Congress to get the infrastructure package done. Specifically, within that infrastructure package, we’re advocating to ensure that there is a robust safety component," said Nate Smith, vice president of government relations for American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). "Simultaneously, we’re beginning to work on the reauthorization of the surface transportation bill."
Taking the Conversation to Capitol Hill
In addition to the hundreds of meetings that ATSSA’s Government Relations team holds on Capitol Hill each year, the association also hosts a Legislative Briefing & Fly-In in Washington, D.C., each spring. At the Fly-In, ATSSA members speak with members of Congress about issues such as the importance of funding programs like the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), the core federal aid highway program that is solely dedicated to roadway safety infrastructure.
ATSSA members are also encouraged to invite their legislators to their facilities, factories and work zones to show elected officials the impact the industry has on roadway safety infrastructure in their local districts.
“You can really get down to the nuts and bolts of what’s important for the safety industry,” said Jay Bruemmer, vice president of K & G Striping and chair of ATSSA’s Government Relations Committee, who has participated in ATSSA’s Fly-In for the last 10 years.
“I’m fortunate that my local representative has a fairly prominent position on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. He and his staff are involved with writing future legislation. Being able to have that one-on-one conversation is important,” he said.
Bruemmer was recently invited to present before the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on ways to begin improving safety on U.S. roadways. He spoke about recent infrastructure improvements and how they have decreased fatalities.
“The hope would be that my recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the other panelists, would be incorporated and then used to write new legislation as we go forward,” said Bruemmer.
Advocating at the State Level
ATSSA local chapters actively participate in advocacy in their state governments.
“Our goal with the local chapters of ATSSA is to work with state department and project owners to raise the standards for roadway safety, whether it be new products, innovation, technologies or laws,” said Haley Norman, corporate treasurer for Direct Traffic Control and president of the Oklahoma ATSSA Chapter.
Earlier this year, the Texas ATSSA Chapter set up an Advocacy Day to talk to state legislators about changing the Slow Down/Move Over law. The law requires drivers to clear the lanes for utility workers, firefighters, ambulances and other workers, but at the time, only protected Texas Department of Transportation employees and not private contractors.
“We didn’t necessarily have a bill, but we wanted to raise this concept with them and see if there was an interest, and there absolutely was. So, just a week or two after our Advocacy Day, we had legislation introduced in both the Texas House and Senate. It wound its way through the process and ended up being signed into law by the Texas governor in May,” said Smith. “It’s a great example of the impact that our members have at the local level each and every day.”
Using Your Voice for Roadway Safety Advocacy
With the big federal roadway safety and infrastructure decisions that will be made in the coming months, it’s important that the industry continues to inform the discussion.
“My encouragement would be that people get involved in advocacy. Whether they are a vendor member, contractor member or even an individual member, they can take a look at how the infrastructure and the highway bill affects them, and communicate that to their legislators,” said Norman. “It really takes all of us from the ground up to help get the message across.”
To learn more about legislative advocacy for the roadway safety industry, visit www.atssa.com/Advocacy.