July 7, 2016
Government Relations Update: Senate CST Committee Hearing on the FAST Act
By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC
On June 8, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing titled "Implementation of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act." The act authorizes $305 billion in sustained federal investments in surface transportation and infrastructure between fiscal years 2016 and 2020. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx testified before the committee to provide members with a six-month progress report and to address concerns regarding implementation and perceived shortcomings of the bill.
Secretary Foxx noted in his opening remarks that the five key program areas the Department of Transportation (DOT) will focus on moving forward are safety, project delivery, an innovative finance bureau, freight, and research and innovation deployment. DOT also plans to provide $377.5 million in grants over the next five years for transportation research at universities under the University Transportation Center (UTC) Program.
Committee Chairman Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were among the members who expressed great concern over the recent Takata airbag recall. They urged Secretary Foxx to take immediate action to ensure that vehicles containing defective airbags, or those that manufacturers know will fail in the future, cannot be sold without manufacturers first making the customer aware of the deficiency and potential safety risk. In response, Secretary Foxx noted that he does not have legal jurisdiction to require disclosure if the part is not defective at the time of the sale, but he will work closely with the committee moving forward to resolve the issue.
Although several members also raised concerns about transportation issues in their home states, the committee was appreciative of the progress made by DOT over the past six months and was eager to work closely with Secretary Foxx moving forward. This investment provides a valuable opportunity for HFES to take advantage of the committee's enthusiasm to increase awareness of human factors research in surface transportation and infrastructure and to position the Society as a resource to policy makers in the future.
Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, a leading Washington, D.C.-based government relations and consulting firm, represents the public policy interests of scientific societies and institutions of higher education. Lewis-Burke's staff of about 20 government relations professionals work to promote the federal research and policy goals of HFES and the HF/E community.