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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.

Register now for ATSSA’s 2021 Legislative Briefing & Virtual Fly-In

Connect with Capitol Hill policymakers from a socially distant virtual platform

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Take part in ATSSA’s 2021 Legislative Briefing & Virtual Fly-In from the comfort and safety of home. The April 21-22 event is free for members and will be completely online making access to Capitol Hill policymakers convenient and effective.

Last year’s virtual event proved popular with ATSSA members and provided a great way to interact with legislators without the need for travel. Participants drove their message to Capitol Hill and enjoyed direct interactions with members of Congress and congressional staff involved in funding and policy decisions.

ATSSA’s Legislative Briefing & Fly-In equips members to present key roadway safety infrastructure industry issues directly to political leaders and this year’s issues are key for the industry. The FAST Act, or Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, was a hot topic last year as ATSSA members advocated successfully for a one-year extension but a new deadline is looming.

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.

Report estimates 2020 traffic fatalities highest in 13 years

National Safety Council releases preliminary data on motor vehicle crashes

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Fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2020 increased 8% over the previous year despite a drop in driving because of the pandemic, according to a report released this morning by the National Safety Council (NSC).

Preliminary data suggests 42,060 people died and 4.8 million were seriously injured in crashes in 2020, according to the report. The rate of death from that data shows a 24% rise over the previous year though motorists traveled 13% fewer miles. That accounted for the biggest year-over-year increase in 96 years, the report noted.

“It is tragic that in the U.S., we took cars off the roads and didn’t reap any safety benefits,” Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of NSC, said in the release. “These data expose our lack of an effective roadway safety culture. It is past time to address roadway safety holistically and effectively, and NSC stands ready to assist all stakeholders, including the federal government.”

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.

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