Maria Robertson / Tuesday, August 10, 2021 / Categories: Advocacy, ATSSA, Government, Infrastructure, Transportation, Work Zones Senate passes bipartisan infrastructure package The Senate today passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The $1.2 trillion plan includes the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (STRA) that passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this year. The vote of 69-30 came shortly before noon EDT on Tuesday. Nineteen Republicans joined all 50 Democrats in supporting the infrastructure package. “ATSSA applauds the passage of this historic investment in roads, bridges and safety,” ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner said. “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will allow ATSSA members to undertake even more lifesaving work on America’s roadways. We are encouraged by the work done in a bipartisan manner in the Senate and strongly urge the House to follow their lead in implementing a robust, long-term and safety-focused infrastructure plan.” The House will need to also pass the infrastructure plan for it to go into effect. However, members on both sides of the aisle have expressed a weariness toward the Senate version. It is unclear what the plan forward is on the legislation. Here are the ATSSA-focused highlights. Highway Safety Improvement Program In a massive win for the industry, funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) in IIJA totals $16.8 billion over the five-year period. That is compared to $15 billion over the five years of the current law, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. For more than a decade, ATSSA members and staff have been advocating for $3 billion annually for HSIP. On an annual average, IIJA exceeds that goal, with an average of $3.1 billion annually. As part of the negotiations on those higher spending levels, a state would regain the ability to flex up to 10% of funds to behavioral safety programs. This is something ATSSA continues to be concerned about and is working to address in the congressional negotiations. During the 2019 Senate highway bill proposal, that number was targeted at 25%, so progress had been made in reducing that earlier flexibility proposal. This proposal includes a vulnerable road user (VRU) “trigger” where a state would need to spend at least 15% of its HSIP funds on VRUs if the total annual fatalities of vulnerable road users exceeds 15% of fatalities in that state. Additionally, the legislation directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to develop a VRU plan to focus research on roadway designs, safety countermeasures and encouraging walking and biking. Work Zone Safety The Work Zone Safety Grant is continued under this proposal. Additionally, ATSSA and its construction industry partners advocated for a new safety contingency fund to be included in this legislation that would encourage state departments of transportation (DOTs) to ensure that the most effective safety countermeasures were utilized in work zones. This concept was included in IIJA. Rural Roads The legislation includes a new rural surface transportation grant program that would focus federal funds on rural roadway projects, including safety projects. ATSSA successfully advocated for an amendment by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to set aside 15% for this program for states that have a greater-than-average fatality rate on rural roads associated with lane departures, which amounts to up to $300 million over five years for safety projects. MUTCD IIJA directs USDOT to update the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) within 18 months of enactment and then update the MUTCD every three years thereafter. Additionally, in the first update, the legislation directs USDOT to focus on: Protecting vulnerable road users Supporting safe testing of autonomous vehicle technology Appropriately using variable message signs to enhance public safety Implementing minimum retroreflectivity of traffic control devices and pavement markings Incorporating any additional recommendations by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) that have not been incorporated into the MUTCD. Dedicated Short-Range Communications Two amendments offered by Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) were incorporated into the final package. These focus on retrofitting dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) assets to cellular vehicle-to-everything assets, following the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) decision on the 5.9 GHz safety band. Tribal Road Safety The proposal increases the safety set-aside within the tribal transportation program from the current 2% to a proposed 4%, which totals $120.5 million over five years. Wildlife Crash Mitigation IIJA creates a pilot grant program to focus on wildlife crossing safety, funded at $350 million over five years. Transportation Management Plans The proposal clarifies that only projects with a lane closure for three or more consecutive days are deemed significant and removes the requirement for a transportation management plan for a project not on an interstate and not needing more than three consecutive days of lane closures. Pedestrian Security IIJA creates a grant program, funded at $25 million over five years, to focus on stopping threats to pedestrians through the installation of countermeasures such as bollards. VMT Pilot Program The legislation creates a nationwide pilot program to demonstrate a national vehicle miles traveled (VMT) user fee as a future user fee mechanism in lieu of the current federal motor fuel user fees. Roadside Highway Safety Hardware The legislation directs the U.S. secretary of transportation to implement recommendations from the June 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, “Highway Safety: More Robust DOT Oversight of Guardrails and Other Roadside Hardware Could Further Enhance Safety,” including: Develop a process for third party verification of full-scale crash testing results from crash test labs to include a process for: Formally verifying the testing outcomes Providing for an independent pass/fail determination. Establish a process to enhance independence of crash test labs by ensuring that those labs have a clear separation between device development and testing in cases in which lab employees test devices that were developed within the parent organization of the employee. The legislation also directs USDOT to continue issuing letters of eligibility for federal-aid reimbursement. Previous Article New federal rule for entry-level CDL training goes into effect in February Next Article ATSSA’s 2021 Midyear Meeting gets underway in Missouri Print 2051 Rate this article: 4.0 Tags: advocacy infrastructure ATSSA Highway Safety Improvement Program HSIP Please login or register to post comments.