U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, questioned Mr. Carlos Braceras, President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; Mr. Robert Lanham, Vice President of the Associated General Contractors of America; and Mr. James Corless, Executive Director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, at an EPW hearing today entitled “Addressing America’s Surface Transportation Infrastructure Needs.”
Inhofe: I'm very proud, and I think you know this, Mr. Lanham, because you have a lot of good members in Oklahoma, you've probably heard me say this before. But, we had a governor once named Bartlett, he and I, when I was in the state senate, way back before most of you guys here were even born, back in the ‘60s, we started that program. We started that for Oklahoma, it's been a leader for a long period of time. And so—In fact—we've recently extended that.
One of the problems we have in workforce development, I want to get comments on that from each one of you on that issue, is one that is across the board. When we did the FAA re-authorization bill, I put an amendment in there that you had experimental pilot programs to develop the workforce development program in the FAA re-authorization bill. Any of you want to comment on that issue? Workforce development? Now, you're doing a good job, I know that you guys put forth programs where you can hire people right out of these technical programs and that goes right into—that's been very, very effective in Oklahoma.
Lanham: And a part of what we call our OJT—On the Job Training—program where we liaison with the technical schools or can work with the vocational training out of the high schools, but yes sir. It works well. It's a major focus and a major emphasis for AGC of America. We are partnering with AASHTO, federal highways, we have a pilot program, we've got five states that have signed on that are working with a test project on how to integrate workforce development.
Now, we're battling a lot of cultural stigma with regards to—most of our challenges is not with the professional trades, engineers, it's with the construction trades, the carpenters, and that's not a college-bound career. We're offering alternatives to young people and well-paying careers. How do we reach through that bias that seems to be out there.
Inhofe: Well thank you. And is it fair to say that you've had comparable success in other states that you've had in Oklahoma? Because you have had success in Oklahoma.
Lanham: We have, yes sir.
Inhofe: Well that's good. On the issue of the freight program, we had Mr. Braceras—I noticed you made a comment in your written testimony on an Enid, Oklahoma company, so you're familiar with the problem. Now, when we developed—I was chair of this committee back when we did the FAST Act—and we developed a freight program for the first time.
Any comments to how that seems to be working right now, or areas for improvement on that?
Braceras: Yes, thank you, Senator. That program is working very well for the state of Utah. To me, the freight program was a clear recognition by this committee and congress of the importance that the transportation system serves for freight. When you think about it, the freight is that connection for people, even if you're not out there using the roadways, you depend on the freight that's being moved by the highway system and the rail system.
And so, I consider the freight program one of the really good additions that came about, and we're doing projects right now that we could not have gotten to and would not have been able to prioritize but for the freight program. So, thank you.
Inhofe: Well good. And Mr. Lanham, it was an off the record comment that you made in response to when Senator Barrasso once stated that the federal formula program has worked. You know, that's one of the few things the government seems to be working. That does take into consideration the needs of the various states that are around, they have a lot of input. When you come up with a formula and they introduce a comprehensive bill and everyone's mad about here, at this table, you've done a good job.