Transportation supporters 'rally for roads' amid highway bill debate

After Mica's speech Tuesday, he told reporters it was likely the House would pass a short-term extension of highway funding instead of the Senate's $109 billion version of the measure. That would mean another continuing resolution of legislation that expired in 2009, but Mica still implored the crowd to contact members of Congress about passing a long-term bill. 

"Go to their offices. Wear your hard hats. Tell them that we need their votes," Mica said to construction workers in the audience. 

Sen. Boxer, who has opposed the House's approach to the transportation measure, agreed the "Rally for Road" attendees were critical to the chances of any bill becoming law this year.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you helped Sen. [Jim] Inhofe [R-Okla.] and me so much during our battle to pass MAP-21 through the Senate, and I need your help one more time," Boxer told the crowd, referring to the Senate's transportation measure.
She asked, "Will you give us your power and your energy to get a strong, bipartisan transportation bill through the House: one that reflects the strong belief that our 70,000 deficient bridges must be fixed, and 50 percent of our roads must be brought up to standard?"

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) delivered remarks to the crowd as well, telling attendees at the rally that there was "nothing Congress could do that would better put Americans back to work" than pass a new transportation bill.

DeFazio made the case for the House accepting the version of the measure that was approved last week by the Senate with 74 votes.

"The best we can do today is take up the Senate bill," he said, adding, "It's not great."  

Despite Mica's pronouncement that a short-term highway bill extension was likely, organizers deemed the rally Tuesday a success.

"America’s transportation needs are too great, and its impact on the nation’s economic health and well-being are too substantial to delay passage of a surface transportation bill any longer," rally spokeswoman Kerri Leininger said in a statement.

“Deficiencies in America’s surface transportation systems have cost households and businesses billions of dollars,” she continued. “Our livelihoods depend on America’s roads. The support for Rally for Roads from congressional and industry members highlights the importance of getting our nation’s infrastructure back on track.”

The rally was organized by the American Concrete Pavement Association; Associated Equipment Distributors; Association of Equipment Manufacturers; Associated General Contractors of America; American Highway Users Alliance; American Road & Transportation Builders Association; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Traffic Safety Services Association; Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association; National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association; Portland Cement Association; International Safety Equipment Association; National Association of Manufacturers; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.