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Senate EPW Committee passes safety-focused highway bill

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The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today unanimously passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021 (STRA), its proposal to reauthorize the expiring highway program.

The proposed legislation, which was crafted in a bipartisan manner, funds surface transportation programs at $304 billion over five years, which is a 34% increase over current funding levels. This funding includes historic funding levels for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), $16.8 billion over the five-year period, which is a nearly $2 billion increase over current funding levels.

ATSSA worked hard to ensure that funding levels for HSIP were as high as possible and then continued to work to insert additional safety provisions and funding in other programs throughout the legislation. Now our team will work to ensure these advocacy successes remain in the package as it winds its way through Congress this summer.

Images capture NWZAW efforts from individuals to public officials working to save lives

Messages across the nation encourage everyone to do their part for work zone safety

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Across the country, individuals, ATSSA members, public officials, government agencies, major corporations and at least one university pitched in for National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) to spread the word about the importance of safety in and around roadway work zones.

This year’s NWZAW theme was: Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. People took a personal approach, used statistics, employed billboards, aired videos and posted to social media all in an effort to heighten awareness of the risks to motorists, their passengers and workers in roadway work zones.

Here are some of the images from efforts across the country for this annual public awareness campaign.

ATSSA endorses rural road safety legislation introduced in the House

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Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) introduced H.R. 2481, the High Risk Rural Roads Safety Grant Program Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bipartisan proposal, which is strongly supported by ATSSA, would direct federal roadway safety infrastructure funds to locally owned rural roads.

The fatality rate on rural roads is two times greater than on non-rural roads, according to U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) statistics. Additionally, local governments generally do not have the resources needed to make critical, lifesaving roadway safety infrastructure investments.

H.R. 2481 would create a $600 million competitive grant program that local governments could apply for, with the federal grant being funded at 100%. A specific $100 million set-aside is also included for tribal road safety.

In addition to ATSSA, the American Highway Users Alliance, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), National Association of Counties (NACo), National Association of County Engineers (NACE) and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) endorsed the legislation.

Trottenberg confirmed as deputy secretary of transportation

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The Senate today confirmed Polly Tottenberg as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).

Trottenberg previously served as New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner, and prior to that, was Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy during the Obama Administration.

ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner congratulated Trottenberg on her confirmation.

They’re baaaaaaaaaack – Earmarks that is

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Late last week, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced a process for bringing back congressional directed funding, also known as earmarks. Additionally, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) disseminated a “Dear Colleague” letter to members of Congress indicating his plan to include earmarks in the upcoming highway bill, which is expected to be part of a larger House infrastructure package.

Earmarks are projects that receive some level of federal funding for state and local projects in congressional districts. They differ from competitive grant programs in that competitive grants are applied for and decided by staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), whereas earmarks are advocated for by interested parties and members of Congress decide if they want to include them in a particular legislative vehicle.

Because of an extremely bloated earmark process in the 2005 surface transportation bill, Congress opted to ban earmarks starting in 2011. Since then, there have been occasional rumors that they may return; however, DeLauro’s and DeFazio’s announcements mark the first time there has been this serious of an effort.

Senate confirms Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation

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The Senate today confirmed former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, adding him to the cabinet of President Joe Biden.

Buttigieg campaigned on the need for transportation and infrastructure investment throughout his bid to become the Democrats’ nominee for president. During his hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee last month, he touched on the need for shoring up revenue for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), increased investment in tribal and rural roads, the future of autonomous vehicles and the need for safety to be at the forefront of any new transportation or infrastructure initiative.

The Senate Commerce Committee forwarded his nomination to the full Senate on Wednesday by a 21-3 vote.

The full Senate confirmed Buttigieg’s nomination by a vote of 86-13.

Buttigieg nomination for transportation secretary passes committee vote

UPDATE: Full Senate expected to consider the nomination Tuesday at noon.

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UPDATE Jan. 28: The full Senate is expected to consider Buttigieg's nomination Tuesday at noon. 

The Senate Commerce Committee voted 21-3 today to confirm the nomination of former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg to serve as Secretary of Transportation in the Biden administration.

The nomination now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) said he looked forward to working with Buttigieg.

USDOT releases 'Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan'

The plan is available on the Federal Register for public comments

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The U.S. Department of Transportation this week released an “Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan”  (AVCP) that details a multi-pronged approach that “prioritizes safety while preparing for the future of transportation,” according to a statement announcing the plan.

“This comprehensive plan lays out a vision for the safe integration of automated vehicles into America’s transportation system while ensuring that legitimate concerns about safety, security and privacy are addressed,” Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in the statement.

Public comments should be made within 60 days of the posting.

Citing Capitol riot, Transportation Secretary Chao submits resignation

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Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao today announced that she would be resigning from her position, with her final day coming on Jan. 11.

In a letter to her colleagues at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) posted to Twitter, Chao wrote, “Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

Biden expected to choose Buttigieg as transportation secretary

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President-elect Joe Biden will be nominating former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), according to multiple reports.

Buttigieg, who is also the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., rose to national prominence after a surging presidential run in his bid for the Democratic nomination earlier this year. Buttigieg appears to have emerged from among contenders for the position such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

During his presidential campaign, Buttigieg introduced an infrastructure plan that garnered support across the transportation industry.

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