A group of national, state, county and local officials announced a campaign today to lobby federal officials to pass a new funding bill for road construction. Iowa Department of Transportation director, Nancy Richardson, says her department has a five-year plan that is updated every year. She says it’s tough to move forward without knowing what they have to work with.
Richardson says the only thing they can do to predict federal funding is to “look into our crystal ball” and try to guess what the funding will be. She says the best they can do is base their plans on the funding from last year, and that’s what they have done to be conservative.
State Senator Tom Rielly, a Democrat from Oskaloosa, oversees transportation issues for the legislature. Rielly says the last time the funding was passed was September of 2009, and he says since that time they’ve had to work on “piecemeal” type organizations. “that’s no way to work as a state, if the funds are not there, we’re gonna have to cut back,” Rielly says.
Senator Larry Noble, a Republican from Ankeny, says they’ve work in a bipartisan way on the transportation projects in the state. Noble says they need that to happen among federal officials to get the construction funding passed. Noble says, “Iowa is very fortunate to have a congressional delegation, where members of both parties are in powerful positions. It’s time for our delegation to urge their leadership on the national level to get moving on this bill.” Noble says they need to pass the bill before the end of the year so states can begin moving forward.
Lyle Brehm is the county engineer for both Tama and Poweshiek counties. Brehm says the county and local roads are important to the overall transportation system, as there are no driveways onto interstate highways. Brehm says every user must access the interstate system by first driving across lower level roads, a significant portion of which he says are secondary roads. He says the harsh winters Iowa has been having are showing up in the condition of the pavements on the county road system.
Brehm says the feeder roads have to be maintained. He says local agencies have become increasingly dependent on federal money to maintain the condition and to enhance the safety of their roadways. Raising the gas tax has been one suggestion for increasing funding for highway construction.
Iowa Associated General Contractors president, Robert Cramer, was asked if his group is advocating for the gas tax increase. “We’re going to let the congressman work through that issue,” Cramer says, “we know we need reliable long-term funding to make this happen, but we’re gonna leave it to them to has it out and decide what’s the best way they can represent their people to do it.”
The national Associated General Contractors group plans to spend $100,000 on advertising in Iowa, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and Maryland to push federal legislators to pass the funding bill. Some experts say congressional leaders will likely not take action until after the election.
Cramer says they’re hoping legislators will see the need and pass a bill before the end of the year. You can find out more at: www.FixAgingRoads.org.