The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission convened for the third time on July 25-26 in Washington, D.C. The group was established in SAFETEA-LU to develop recommendations for financing federal highway and transit investments that meet the nation’s short- and long-term needs.
Interim Chairperson and Acting Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino opened the meeting with calls for “consensus” and for the commission to report its recommendations to Congress by the July 2007 deadline. One commissioner expressed doubt in the group’s ability to meet that deadline, as a delay in naming commission members postponed the panel’s initial start date.
A wide variety of public- and private-sector transportation experts presented an overview of the past, present and future of the federal surface transportation program. Speakers described the current domestic transportation system as a “crisis,” saying the existing transportation network is fragmented across all modes. The presenters said future federal surface transportation policy needs a global strategy rather than a project approach.
The transportation construction market continues to show signs of improvements, according to the participants in the latest quarterly market conditions survey conducted by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Contractors, however, still face increasing wages and higher material costs. They did report that the overall market outlook in the second quarter of 2006 continued to be positive, and they expect the pace of construction to be steady for the remainder of the year.
As for the future, contractors are “somewhat” optimistic, as 46% of the survey respondents said they are expecting normal to above-normal growth and 54% are working at 90% capacity or above.