No Next Time for NEXTEA

Article December 28, 2000
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In June, much of the attention of highway officials around the
country was turned toward Washington, D.C., and the fracas over
the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to tighten federal
clean-air standards. The proposed standards, which have been
endorsed by President Clinton, but faced opposition in Congress,
were to have gone into effect July 19.

By the time this
issue reaches your hands--regardless of whether the air-quality
regs situation has been resolved--there will be only 10 weeks
remaining before expiration of the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA).

That's 10
weeks to go before the industry finds out if its years of
planning, lobbying and cajoling Congress have resulted in a
realization by its members of the importance of providing the
means to keep America's highway system the best in the world.

Expiration day fast approaches

Time is running out
folks. We can sit on our duffs and complain about how the
politicians inside the Beltway don't understand the severity of
the situation or the benefits a well-built, well-maintained
highway system provides for all Americans. But the fact is if
they don't hear it from us, their constituents, then they may be
inclined to brush off the industry's pleas as just another push
for pork.

Industry groups have done an admirable job
bringing together diverse factions of the highway industry in an
effort to speak with one voice about ISTEA. But we as individual
members of the industry must also raise our voices to let our
Congressional representatives know how strongly we feel about
the reauthorization of ISTEA, which has become known as NEXTEA
(National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act).

NEXTEA should not only be passed by Congress and signed into
law by the President, but it should be passed on time. If the
bill is not passed by Sept. 30 then special measures would be
required to keep open the funding pipeline to the states.

Furthermore, it is critical that the bill be passed with not
only increases, but significant increases, in funds earmarked
for highways.

Funding for enhancements such as flower beds,
building improvements and other ribbon-cutting opportunities are
all well and good, but not if the money to fund them is siphoned
off from needed road and bridge repair and building projects.
Helping welfare recipients find jobs in transportation is a
positive measure and noble gesture, but funds should be added to
the bill for this purpose, not shifted from construction-related
programs.

Raise your voice, your vote

With the busy
lives that we all lead these days, many of us may not even be
sure who our Congressional representatives are or how they can
be contacted. I was able to find out who my representatives were
and how to contact them by telephoning the Capitol switchboard
in Washington, D.C., at (202) 225-3121. As a resident of
Illinois, my representative in the House is John Porter (R-Ill.
District 10). My Senate representatives are Carol Moseley-Braun
(D) and Richard Durbin (D). They'll be hearing from me.

Take
action. Let your representatives hear from you, too. The
investment in a few minutes of your time and a phone call could
pay dividends for years to come.

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