Focusing on our motto, “Safer Roads Save Lives,” is the message that American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) staff and volunteers are taking to Capitol Hill in support of the creation of a core roadway safety program as a key element of TEA-21 reauthorization. And the Senate, House of Representatives and White House are all listening. Each of their proposals includes the creation of such a program, with funding between $7.5 and $7.9 billion annually.
Although this is good news for our industry, we share our members’ frustration with the continued delays in moving a bill through Congress. Recent visits to our members have given me a first-hand look at what many on the “front line” are experiencing in today’s tough market. State after state has raided highway funds or reduced expenditures in order to meet balanced budget requirements. Many local governments also have felt the effect of three years of economic downturn.
ATSSA is responding not only by advocating for dedicated funding for roadway safety as part of reauthorization, but also by trying to bring new business ideas to our members.
At the upcoming Annual Convention and Traffic Expo (San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 30-Feb. 3), we’ll have a special session on accessing nontraditional funding sources, including Section 402 and CMAQ funds. Our biweekly newsletter, The Flash, now includes business leads on projects to be undertaken at both the state and local level, as well as news regarding funding initiatives that our members might want to support. And once reauthorization is completed we will turn more attention and resources to helping our members access those funds.
Our Capitol Hill office has enabled the ATSSA staff to work directly with decision makers regarding TEA-21 and other relevant transportation and safety issues. We opened this office in the heart of downtown Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue nearly two years ago in order for our advocacy staff to interact with members of Congress on a day-to-day basis. Through these efforts, ATSSA has become a recognized and credible organization in the eyes of those we have elected and others close to the issue.
We also utilize ATSSA member products regularly to help tell our story. ATSSA’s “Safety Solutions” CD-ROM, for example, is still a popular item in demonstrating-in a few short minutes-what ATSSA members do and how they help save lives. This video debuted nearly two years ago and was delivered to all members of the transportation committees in both the House and the Senate. It has since opened many doors and prompted many questions, even at the local level. ATSSA member John Durkos, for example, has taken this video to elementary schools to explain how ATSSA-member products help save lives. The students John encountered found the presentation fun, informative and educational.
Many other ATSSA members are taking similar steps. During our annual legislative visits, ATSSA members are helping by personally informing elected officials that roadways require specific funding for safety-things like signs, stripes, guard rails and crash cushions. We also talk with them about making work zones safer.
This coming year, ATSSA plans a new feature during our legislative visits, scheduled for April 20-21. We plan to hold a “Technology Fair” right in the halls of Congress. We will invite congressional members and their staffs to visit the fair to learn more about our industry and what our members do.
I’d also like to touch briefly on another issue: a recent proposal circulated on Capitol Hill that would have effectively crippled the forthcoming minimum levels of retroreflectivity. ATSSA took the lead in engaging other partners, including AARP, AAA, the American Highway Users Alliance and the American College of Emergency Physicians, to oppose this proposal and we will remain vigilant to make sure it is put to rest.
We have many efforts still in progress to help raise public awareness of what our members are doing and to help motorists drive with caution in work zones. As most of you know, ATSSA initiated National Work Zone Awareness Week in partnership with the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration in 1999. Now, nearly all states participate every April in some way to bring this issue to the attention of the public and the media. National Work Zone Awareness Week 2004, by the way, is scheduled for April 4-10.
We have the National Work Zone Memorial that travels across the country year-round as a lasting tribute to those who have lost their lives in work zones, and we also support our own family through the Roadway Worker Memorial Scholarship Program. If you know of a roadway worker who was killed or is permanently injured as a result of a roadway work-zone accident, please contact me so I can ensure scholarship program information is sent to that worker’s family members immediately.
Our foundation has initiated a Work Zone Poster Contest for elementary school-age children. This year we translated the winning posters into a work-zone calendar. We’ve also developed a new Work Zone Violators Training Course to make sure work-zone offenders get specific remedial training-just like speeders and DUI offenders do. This course has proven successful and popular in high school driver’s education classes, and the Illinois DOT recently acquired 1,000 copies of the course for statewide distribution.
Before closing, I extend an invitation to all Roads & Bridges readers to attend ATSSA’s 34th Annual Convention and Traffic Expo. This event will again be the largest single display of roadway safety products and services in North America, and as always thousands of exhibitors, guests and visitors are expected to attend. I encourage you to visit the “Meetings and Events” link of www.atssa.com. There you can view the schedules of events, accommodations and other superb activities we have planned. This event is always a unique opportunity to meet your peers, network and see the latest the roadway safety industry has to offer.
Finally, another recent ATSSA project will be introduced in San Antonio. It’s a new work-zone safety video aimed directly at teen drivers. Titled “In the Zone,” the video features NASCAR driver Todd Bodine. The video is very entertaining, educational and loaded with work-zone tips to ensure safe passage through work zones. Some of the highlights of this new video will be shown during the Opening General Session breakfast in San Antonio on Feb. 1.
I hope to see many of you during ATSSA’s 34th Annual Convention and Traffic Expo in San Antonio beginning Jan. 30