With the construction industry continuing to shed jobs, the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) has mounted a campaign to mobilize the asphalt pavement industry and hold Congress accountable for its inaction on the surface transportation bill.
Lack of such legislation is widely seen as contributing to the still gloomy jobless numbers posted today by the construction industry. Construction unemployment is 20.1 percent, giving this sector the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate of any industry in the nation, according to NAPA.
“NAPA members are going to let Congress know, in no uncertain terms, that we need action on a multi-year transportation bill,” NAPA President Mike Acott said in a written statement. “Members of Congress have told us that they are not hearing from their constituents at home, but that is about to change.
“Hundreds of thousands of people at NAPA’s member companies helped to elect these representatives to solve the nation’s problems, not to point fingers. Along with our partners in the Transportation Construction Coalition, who represent additional hundreds of thousands of workers, NAPA is outraged that Congress continues to play politics with American jobs,” Acott continued.
NAPA has mobilized its members to meet with their elected officials during the July 4 recess, when U.S. Representatives and Senators are in their home districts.
“Our members are going to personally convey to their Representatives and Senators the importance of enacting a surface transportation bill now,” Acott said. “Our industry’s very survival, and the economic viability of these workers’ families, depends on the actions of Congress.”
NAPA has established a special Web site at www.hotmix.org/highwaybill to help with arranging meetings with Members of Congress.
?Ten months have passed since the expiration of SAFETEA-LU, the last surface transportation bill.
Congressional leaders have indicated that Congress would not take action on a multi-year reauthorization bill before the November elections.
As state and local governments slash highway spending, and the private markets remain soft, the transportation construction industry continues to lose jobs, NAPA says.
Current construction employment numbers mark three years of monthly declines, and brings the total decline in construction jobs since the peak in January 2007 to 2,226,000.
“Stimulus funding will begin to run out in the fourth quarter of 2010, casting an air of uncertainty over the 2011 highway market,” Acott said. “Transportation improvement projects are complex and may take several years to plan and construct. That’s why both the companies in our industry and the state Departments of Transportation need a multi-year highway bill. Planning is impossible in a climate of uncertainty. This does a disservice to the American people, who rely on the nation’s roads and highways for everything from emergency services to routine activities such as going to work, school, and worship.”
Since SAFETEA-LU expired, Congress has relied on short-term extensions to fund transportation construction, the latest of which will expire in December 2010. Additionally, over the past two years, the Highway Trust Fund has had to “borrow” $36 billion from general fund revenues, undermining the user-fee principle and the public’s trust. Without additional revenues, the state DOTs face a cut 30 to 50 percent in federal support as early as 2012.