In early December 2015 President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act… known as the FAST Act. It’s the first federal law in over a decade to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment. It will help in many areas, including highway, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology, and statistics programs.
The FAST Act authorizes the spending of $305 billion dollars over five years into 2020, allocating $226 billion for highway improvement. Furthermore, it keeps the Highway Trust Fund solvent.
This bill has been a long time coming and is sorely needed. Prior to the signing of the Act, individual states had reduced the number of projects coming out for bid for construction. Moreover, states were unable to initiate engineering for future projects because they were uncertain whether Washington would provide partial funding as it had since the early 1980’s under President Reagan. Contraction within the heavy highway industry was becoming a way of life. Due to the polarization in the House and Senate, little was getting done. Consequently, states were looking at and instituting alternative ways of funding much needed roadway work, such as public private partnerships (PPP).
However, with the FAST Act, states are now able to plan for present and future projects knowing the Federal Government is committed to providing its piece of the funding for five years. This has already resulted in numerous projects being released for construction and/or design. The trickle-down effect of having the FAST Act in place has been immediate, with sub-contractors, vendors and suppliers expanding their revenues.
The FAST Act allocates $43 billion during 2016 with approximate increases of 2% in each of the four following years. It has been noted by numerous sources that for every dollar spent on highway infrastructure there is a dollar-for-dollar, or better, return on the investment. Most importantly, maintaining the highways and byways of the United States is very important to the competitiveness and the security of the USA.
The FAST Act will also create jobs, and thousands of them…spanning construction, manufacturing, transportation, engineering and many more ancillary businesses.
An important feature of FAST is that it provides for accelerated construction and implementation. In the past, compliance to standards unnecessarily delayed projects at an increasing pace. With the FAST Act, there are new mechanisms that will allow for faster compliance checks to aid in moving projects to construction more quickly. This benefits everyone.
By Bill Killeen, PE – President and CEO of Acrow Bridge