Regulatory Affairs

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Regulatory Affairs 2016-07-26T11:28:23+00:00
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Flurry of Regulatory Activity Expected in Advance of 2016 Presidential Race

by Nick Goldstein, ARTBA senior vice president of environmental & regulatory affairs

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Strange as it may sound, one of the main topics of discussion in Washington, D.C., as 2015 begins is the impending 2016 presidential election.

While it will all make for good political theater and cable talk show chatter, it helps obscure the fact that there are many issues to be addressed on the regulatory front, including ones that will impact transportation construction industry
professionals, long before we know who will be the country’s next chief executive.

As the leader in protecting the industry’s flank on regulatory matters, ARTBA is focused on the present and committed to keeping you informed about what’s on tap in the year ahead.

While some may think regulatory activity would decrease because Barack Obama is in the final quarter of his presidency, this is not the case. In fact, the opposite may be true, in part because the Republicans now control both the House and Senate, while the President, of course, is a Democrat.

Having one party in control of the White House and the other of Congress make major legislation very difficult to pass without serious compromise. Therefore, federal agencies—which do not have to garner congressional approval for their actions—will be relied upon more heavily by the White House in order to accomplish policy goals.

Perhaps the most significant issue in 2015 for our industry is the continued implementation of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) surface transportation law. From a regulatory standpoint, MAP-21 contains policy reforms that will be put in place long after the funding it provides runs out. It is a near certainty that MAP-21’s project delivery reforms will be in early stages of implementation while the debate for a fully-funded, six-year reauthorization bill is still taking place.

MAP-21 Implementation
Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is currently taking comments on new federal performance standards for pavement and bridge conditions until this April. The initiative is the second in a series of three rulemakings mandated by MAP-21 aimed at establishing national performance management process to guide improvements on the national highway system.

The proposal balances both pavement smoothness and an assessment of subsurface conditions and foundations—
a key goal of the ARTBA Trans 2020 Task Force, which developed detailed recommendations for the U.S. DOT
regarding the implementation of MAP-21’s many policy reforms.

Further, the proposal follows ARTBA’s recommendation to exclude external factors—such as climate change and
livability—from the evaluation of highway and bridge conditions. Once standards have been set, states would be required to report on pavement and bridge conditions to DOT.  MAP-21 stipulates that if reported pavement and bridge conditions fail to meet the established minimum national standard, states will be required to dedicate a specific amount of their highway formula funds to improve these conditions and lose the flexibility MAP-21 provides to use these funds on other activities.

Environmental Proposals
On the environmental front, two major regulations will be moving forward. First, a proposed rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to significantly extend federal wetlands
jurisdiction and permitting authority to include non-navigable bodies of water, including roadside ditches, could become final as early as April.

ARTBA has consistently opposed EPA’s proposal, stating “roadside ditches are not, and should not, be regulated as traditional jurisdictional wetlands since they are an essential part of any transportation improvement project and contribute to the public health and safety of the nation by dispersing water from roadways.”

EPA is also expected to continue efforts to tighten the federal standards for ozone under the Clean Air Act (CAA) from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65 and 70 ppb, with the option of going as low as 60 ppb.  Consequences of this proposal would impair the transportation construction community as any of these options could increase the number of counties out of compliance with the CAA and, as a result, federal highway funds scheduled for use in non-complying counties could be withheld.

Just as in 2014, when we filed 35 sets of regulatory comments on behalf of the transportation construction industry, ARTBA will continue to ensure your voice is heard as these debates continue in Washington D.C.  Don’t make the mistake of many of the cable TV “talking heads,” though, and start looking ahead to 2016—there will be enough to keep us busy in 2015!

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2015 January/February Articles


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Past Issues



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