Statement of T. Peter Ruane, President and CEO
American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)
(Washington) – “ARTBA opposes local hiring mandates on federal-aid transportation construction projects, such as the one now being proposed for the city of Syracuse. In recent months, ARTBA has worked extensively on this issue in partnership with its transportation construction member firms. In a national survey, 76 percent of contractors who had participated in projects with local hiring mandates reported those provisions added ‘significant costs’ to the project. Eighty percent of all contractors in the survey believed the mandate would compromise safety because of inadequately-trained and inexperienced new employees on the job site.
“Funding for transportation improvement projects is severely constrained across the nation and in New York State, specifically. When bidding on a project, contractors evaluate the risk involved, and include its dollar value in their bids. When bidding on a project with a hiring preference, they will need to include the costs of hiring local workers who in many cases are inexperienced in the industry, require significant training, and ultimately cannot be utilized on key aspects of the project in the short term. Such an inefficient approach will add to the taxpayers’ burden for the project.
“Local hiring preferences will also drive up costs on projects by driving down competition. It is likely that some contractors will simply choose not to bid on these projects because they cannot meet these hiring requirements at any reasonable level of cost, or believe they will compromise their companies’ safety standards in doing so.
“In fact, the most troublesome aspect of local hiring mandates is the effect on safety, which is the foremost value for all transportation contractors. An unskilled or unqualified worker on a project can lead to tragic results, whether for that individual, his or her colleagues, or the traveling public. Public owners and private companies involved in these projects agree it is an unacceptably hazardous practice to introduce personnel into a work zone who are not trained or properly aware of their surroundings.
“If Councilor Khalid Bey and any of his colleagues want to create more local opportunities in transportation construction, then they should vigorously urge the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a well-funded, multi-year federal highway and public transit reauthorization bill as soon as possible. In recent years, more than half of the New York State Department of Transportation’s capital investment in highways and bridges has originated with the federal highway program. A higher level of federal transportation investment for New York State, coupled with appropriate education and training programs, will result in the reliable, well-paid career opportunities that many Syracuse residents are seeking.
“ARTBA joins the Associated General Contractors of New York State, our affiliated chapter, in opposing the proposed local hiring mandate in Syracuse.”
Established in 1902, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA represents 6,000 private and public sector members who plan, design, build and maintain the nation’s roadways, waterways, bridges, ports, airports, rail and transit systems.