Aggregate industry calls for infrastructure funding

By |  December 29, 2017

Will Congress commit $1 trillion toward infrastructure? Photo:

One trillion dollars.

That’s the figure President Donald Trump has tossed around throughout his first year in office related to his plan for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

That nearly a year has passed and no traction has been made on this pledge begs a feasibility question about an infusion that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao described earlier this year as “a strategic, targeted program of investment valued at $1 trillion over 10 years.”

One of the primary functions of the federal government, of course, is to provide support for infrastructure projects that will subsequently drive a healthy demand for construction materials. Unfortunately, the majority of aggregate producers say legislators are not keeping up their end of the bargain on highway funding.

Fifty-six percent of producers, in fact, say the federal government is not providing enough funds to support infrastructure projects. Twenty percent, meanwhile, say the federal government is indeed doing its part.

But even the producers who say the government should do more differ on the solutions the government should take up to adequately fund infrastructure projects. Some of their solutions are like-minded, though.

“Come up with a better plan for road maintenance with state/counties and help fund those projects,” says Sean McElwee, an account manager at Cemex in California.

Seth Ames, general manager at Twin State Sand & Gravel in New Hampshire, would like to see more infrastructure funds appropriated to the states.

“The states will do a better job allocating resources than the federal government,” he says.

Still, the majority of producers say the states are not currently providing enough funds to support infrastructure projects. Only 26 percent of producers say the states are providing adequate funds at the moment, with 52 percent saying they are not meeting the needs of our industry.

Whatever the highway funding solution is, aggregate producers are optimistic that federal infrastructure spending will elevate to the level President Trump has been touting by next summer. Forty-five percent expect a delivery on the $1 trillion infrastructure infusion, while 27 percent do not anticipate such spending to take place. Another 28 percent aren’t sure what to expect in terms of infrastructure spending for 2018.

The directors of state aggregate associations are not, however, as optimistic on this front. Only 23 percent expect a multi-year federal infrastructure bill to be passed by next summer, with 38 percent definitively saying they do not expect such a bill to be passed sometime in the next nine months.

“Congress may pass a multi-year bill or the president’s $1 trillion infrastructure package,” says Jay Stem, executive director of the North Carolina Aggregates Association. “The concern is that a multi-year bill will only be funded with HTF (Highway Trust Fund) dollars, thus a 30 to 40 percent reduction in funding.”

Fred Corrigan, executive director of the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of Minnesota, was previously optimistic about a major infrastructure package coming. But his optimism waned as the year went on.

“I had been confident, but congressional stalemates so far in 2017 are not promising,” Corrigan says.

Kent Starwalt, executive vice president of the Tennessee Road Builders Association, has a similar viewpoint.

“There’s too much dysfunction to get anything done,” he says. “I hope they can, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Information and data for this article derived from Pit & Quarry’s October 2017 State of the Industry surveys for aggregate producers and state association directors.

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