After nearly 30 years as the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's president and CEO, Peter Ruane will be retiring in October, the association says.
Following Ruane’s retirement this fall, which ARTBA announced on June 19, the association’s long-time chief operating officer, William D. Toohey Jr., will become acting CEO. A search committee has been formed, led by David Zachry, CEO of contractor Zachry Corp., to seek Ruane's replacement. Ruane says committee members are looking at internal and external candidates but aren’t close to a decision yet.
The 73-year-old Ruane said in an interview with ENR that he has “no immediate plans” after leaving ARTBA. “I’m just going to chill out for a while,” he says. “The association will not miss a beat, in my opinion.”
The outspoken, often-blunt Ruane, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, has played an important role in advocating for transportation legislation, especially for the series of several multi-year federal surface transportation bills enacted during his years at ARTBA.
Stephen Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America president and CEO, said via email, "Pete has been a long-time, passionate advocate for infrastructure.We will miss his energy and passion for infrastructure and wish him the best of luck in his hard-earned retirement."
"There's no pressure on me to retire," says Ruane, ARTBA's longest-serving leader in its 116-year history" “We’re in wonderful financial condition.” He notes that during his tenure, ARTBA membership has nearly tripled, to about 8,200, and its budget has risen to about $13.5 million, from $1.5 million.
Ruane—who joined ARTBA from the National Moving and Storage Association, where he was president and CEO—says had thought about retirement at certain points over the past several years, such as when he turned 65.
He also says he almost decided to step down in late 2015, after the last major surface-transportation reauthorization—the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act—was signed into law.
That legislation provided the certainty of a five-year funding stream, but, to construction and transportation industry officials, the annual authorization increases were disappointingly small. It fell far short of the industry’s long-sought goal of a long-term, increased revenue source for the financially shaky Highway Trust Fund.
Ruane decided to hold off on retirement then. “We didn’t get the real job done with the FAST Act on solving the [highway] funding issue,” Ruane says. “And that was a great motivator for me to try to stay around and try to accomplish that.”
He adds, “We felt that we still had momentum. We had some good ideas that people were still listening to.”
Than, In 2016, as the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton unfolded, ARTBA saw an opportunity to push again for transportation funding. Ruane recalls, “Our attitude was [that] both these people campaigned on infrastructure investment and let’s take a shot at it. Let’s give it a couple of years to see what happens and keep pushing our ideas.”
President Trump did release an infrastructure blueprint last February, and transportation has benefited from an infusion of several billion dollars in the 2018 appropriations bill enacted in March.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) has said he is working on a wide-ranging infrastructure measure. But nothing concrete has emerged, and Shuster himself will retire from Congress at the end of the year.
Nevertheless, a new highway-transit bill is on the horizon. The FAST Act expires in 2020, and the Capitol Hill debate is expected to heat up about that legislation next year.
The central issue will be finding the money to at least keep the trust fund solvent. Ruane observes, “We’re looking at a situation where it’s another $100 billion that they’ve got to come up with just to fill the hole, just to keep the program where it is right now. And that’s a heavy, heavy lift.”`
But Ruane says he won't stay on for that legislative contest. He says, “I’m not egotistical enough to think that I’m the world’s greatest relief pitcher and we’ve got one more inning left and I’m the guy that’s going to strike out the side and win the game.”
In the meantime, he says, "We continue to push. We still have several months yet. The windows are not closed."
After his retirement, he says that for ARTBA and the transportation construction industry, “The fight goes on.” He adds, “I like to say we’re going to fight ‘til hell freezes over, and then we’re going to fight on the ice.”