The Highway Trust Fund will need an infusion of $5 billion to $7 billion by August to avoid a slowdown in spending, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the panel’s top Republican, James Inhofe (Okla.), are warning. Citing Obama administration and Dept. of Transportation estimates, the senators said on June 2 that $8 billion to $10 billion more will be needed in 2010 to maintain the current highway program level, which is $40.7 billion. To fix the 2009 problem, Inhofe raised the idea of using the interest on the trust-fund balance. Interest is pegged at
More top federal posts are being filled. The Senate on May 21 confirmed Maryland Dept. of Transportation Secretary John Porcari as deputy U.S.DOT secretary; Senate appropriations staffer Peter Rogoff as Federal Transit Administration chief; and Michael Connor, a Senate energy committee aide, to lead the Bureau of Reclamation. Long-time Dept. of Energy official Ines Triay was approved on May 20 as DOE assistant secretary for environmental management.
President Obama has made his first selection for the U.S. Supreme Court in federal appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Observers now are studying decisions she handed down in more than 25 years on the federal bench, seeking evidence about her views on key issues. Michael Kennedy, the Associated General Contractors’ general counsel, says Sotomayor’s construction-related decisions “track relatively closely” with those of Justice David Souter, whom she is being nominated to replace. Thus, Kennedy sees “little to indicate at this point that her confirmation would significantly alter the court’s disposition toward the construction industry.” Labor unions and environmental groups like Obama’s
When Congress returns from its Memorial Day break, House and Senate negotiators will begin to reconcile bills to provide tens of billions of dollars for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Much of the public focus is on provisions dealing with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But each measure also includes about $4 billion for construction, though the funding mix differs. The $96.9-billion House bill, passed 368-60 on May 14, would provide $3.2 billion for Dept. of Defense construction, including about $1.1 billion for hospitals. Appropriators didn’t specify which hospital projects should be funded but directed DOD to submit a spending
The Obama administration is winning cheers from labor unions for proposals to increase spending and staffing at the Labor Dept. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis says the department will toughen enforcement of labor laws and is requesting funds in fiscal year 2010 to add 670 investigators, inspectors and other staff. Speaking on May 18 before a friendly audience at the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept. legislative conference, Solis said the administration believes the government has a fundamental responsibility to protect workers from unsafe workplaces and “unjust” labor practices. “You better believe there’s a new sheriff in town,” she said. Solis
Industry groups are hopeful that Senate committee approval of a bill to reauthorize the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds bodes well for final congressional approval this year. Industry has had a long wait: the Clean Water SRF was last reauthorized 22 years ago and the Drinking Water SRF was last approved in 1996. Congress annually appropriates funds for the SRFs but at lower levels than called for in needs-assessment surveys. The water measure, which the Environment and Public Works Committee cleared on May 14, would authorize $38.5 billion over five years. Of that, $20 billion is for
The Appellate Division of the New York state court ruled four to zero to uphold the state’s right to use eminent domain to build the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment in Brooklyn, N.Y. Developer Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCRC), New York City, says it plans to break this year, with the intent that the Nets will play basketball in the planned arena, named Barclays Center, in the 2011-12 season. In 2006, the developer was aiming to move have the Nets into the arena by the 2009-2010 NBA season. According to FCRC, this is the 23rd consecutive ruling in favor of the megadevelopment,
A recent study by the Federal Transit Administration concludes that the nation’s largest transit agencies need at least $50 billion to bring their assets into a state of good repair and another $6 billion would be needed annually for normal maintenance. The Rail Modernization Study, completed in April at the request of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and 11 other senators, examined capital needs of the seven biggest U.S. rail transit agencies. It looked at older systems in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as newer systems in San Francisco, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Combined, the agencies serve
Business groups and unions describe President Obama’s picks to fill the two vacant Democratic seats on the National Labor Relations Board as experienced labor attorneys on the union side. Unions are cheering Obama’s choices, announced on April 24, but business organizations are bracing for potential reversals of some Bush-era NLRB decisions. Craig Becker, associate general counsel to the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO, and Mark Pearce, a founding partner of the New York law firm Creighton, Pearce, Johnsen & Giroux, are expected to gain Senate confirmation. The third vacant board seat will be filled with a Republican, who
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has put a “hold” on the nomination of Regina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation. The Environment and Public Works Com- mittee cleared McCarthy’s nomi- nation on April 23, but Barrasso is concerned about her support for EPA’s recent finding that greenhouse gases may pose a public-health danger. The action blocks a floor vote on McCarthy.