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Message from ARTBA at Insider's Perspective General Session: 'JND'

In the packed Monday breakfast General Session, one of public transportation’s staunchest Washington, DC, partners declared that the “JND.”

“Thank Congress for doing its job, but the job’s not done!” exclaimed T. Peter Ruane, president and chief executive officer, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, in remarks that encouraged attendees to both express appreciation for the FAST Act and to maintain vigilance about the work that lies ahead.

“We’re all grateful that legislation got passed; Congress deserves our thanks. The good news is that it’s a piece of legislation. It’s five years long—the longest in the last 10 years—and we’re grateful for that. But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re looking at very modest growth,” he said.

Ruane applauded the efforts of APTA and its member agencies and businesses for raising awareness last year of the importance of long-term funding. “Thank you for all you did last year to get Congress to do its job and pass a bill. All of you did a good job of going out and getting people motivated,” he said, resulting in generating “very strong support from both sides of the aisle. But we’re going to have to work very hard for the next five years.”

Ruane pointed to the ongoing difficulty in Congress of finalizing a bill to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration as an example of the challenges affecting all of transportation.

“We need more investment in all of our transportation systems. Transit, highways, airports, bridges—whatever transportation systems you want to look at—given the high cost of maintaining systems, we’re not making progress,” he said.

Ruane proposed that the public transportation industry “hit the ground running,” especially because he said Congress thinks it “hit a home run” with the FAST Act. “What do we need to do to get better legislation next time? We have a long way to go.”

What’s ahead? Ruane discussed the impact of an election year on Congress, saying transportation advocates “have a limited number of opportunities” in the coming months to get the attention of Congress.

“A transition is coming up,” he said, “and Congress won’t want to do a lot. And we’ll have a new president in a few months. We’re going to get caught up in that. The transition will be on top of us before we know it.”

Ruane predicted that the public transportation industry has three years to make an impact, not the five-year span of the FAST Act. “Three years from now, state DOTs will start to slow down. We don’t have five years. No way do we have five years. We have three at best and we need to remind people of that. We can’t bail. We have to keep the pressure on for the next three years. We have no time to relax.”

He suggested that transit agency leaders and business executives continue to raise awareness of their positive impact—an effort that gained traction with the successful Stand Up for Public Transportation day of initiatives in April 2015. “Act locally, show your community your work,” he said.

“Your role: Be candid, be blunt, be honest and don’t forget the big picture. Say thank you, but JND!”

Jeffrey Wharton, member, APTA Board of Directors, and first vice chair, Business Member Board of Governors, introduced Ruane. The session was sponsored by the Business Members Activity Fund. 

ARTBA's Peter Ruane encouraged session attendees to "hit the ground running" in shaping the next long-term authorization bill.
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