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Roadway Safety Advocacy Remains Critical as Federal Highway Bill Gets Short-Term Extension

Powered by ATSSA / October 30, 2020
ATSSA members in Rep. Sam Graves's office.
Jay Bruemmer and ATSSA members meet on Capitol Hill in Rep. Sam Graves's office during ATSSA’s Fly-In 2019.

Jay Bruemmer, who has worked in the roadway infrastructure industry for 35 years, has spent many of those years communicating with elected officials to promote roadway safety.

For him, keeping in contact with legislators is an easy task considering the urgency of the issue at hand: traffic deaths and injuries continue to increase despite advancements in technology.

“We’ve got to have a concerted effort at federal and local levels in order to try to curtail this trend that we’re seeing of increased fatalities on the roads,” Bruemmer, Vice President of JB Consulting says.

Advocacy like Bruemmer’s is especially important in the wake of the extension of the FAST Act in the early hours of Oct. 1. While this year-long extension of the five-year transportation funding bill gives state agencies, contractors and manufacturers needed certainty for the months ahead, a long-term highway bill needs to be passed in 2021, according to Nathan Smith, Vice President of Government Relations for the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). With the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund on the line and infrastructure in need of repairs, a long-term solution can’t come soon enough. Smith says it’s incredibly important for members to engage with state and federal legislators, since the voice of the roadway construction worker carries much more weight than that of a government relations professional.

“I like to say that if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu. And that’s never more true than in today’s political world. Educating lawmakers early and often will significantly amplify our industry’s voice at all levels of government,” he said.

Bruemmer has made a habit of doing just that. Along with participating in ATSSA’s Legislative Briefing and Fly-Ins to provide testimony on Capitol Hill, he has also regularly stayed in touch with legislators like Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO). Graves, who is Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and helped write the FAST Act, says safety funding is a fundamental piece of federal surface transportation programs.

“Whether it’s through the construction of basic infrastructure improvements, harnessing new and evolving technologies that can help reduce accidents, using materials that are more resilient to disaster, or emphasizing our highway safety and motor carrier safety programs, it is critical that our surface transportation programs work together to maintain and improve the safety of the entire system,” Graves says.

Graves adds that next year, bipartisan efforts will need to be made in Congress in order to pass a responsible, long-term bill. This past summer, he and Committee Republicans introduced the STARTER Act, which includes measures to fix roads and bridges, streamline project review processes, foster technological innovation and address the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund.

As for the impact the elections will have on roadway safety funding, Smith said the industry benefits from a general consensus that safety is important. While the talking points and tactics may change depending on election results and party control, Smith notes that “the overarching message that Safer Roads Save Lives lives on.”

Regardless of election outcomes, members of the roadway industry can make a difference by sharing their firsthand industry knowledge with their elected officials. Whether it’s via email or Zoom or in person, Bruemmer says many in the industry need to recognize the impact they can make by simply reaching out to their representatives.

Jay Bruemmer
Bruemmer regularly stays in contact with his representatives via email and in person to advocate for roadway safety.

For those looking to get involved, Smith recommends hosting a legislator for a site visit to a facility or project for a hands-on experience. Those interested can reach out to ATSSA’s Government Relations team at [email protected].

A long-term transportation funding bill that prioritizes roadway safety would ultimately benefit all Americans, whether they work in the industry or not.

“America’s infrastructure needs repairs,” Smith says. “American workers need good-paying jobs like the construction industry provides. And American lives need saving on roadways all across the country.”

To learn more about ATSSA’s advocacy to advance federal and state roadway safety policies, visit ATSSA.com and plan to attend the virtual Roadway Workers Summit at ATSSA’s Annual Convention & Traffic Expo in February.

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