AASHTO Provides Feedback on ‘Buy America’ Waivers

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials provided feedback to the U.S. Department of Transportation on proposed “Buy America, Build America” waivers in a 13-page comment letter sent on August 12.

[Above image by RIDOT]

“As mentioned in our June letter … AASHTO and the state DOTs strongly support the expansion of America’s manufacturing capacity, promoting domestic jobs, and encouraging economic growth. At the same time, we firmly believe there must be a deliberative process for implementing the Buy America, Build America Act that ensures timely and successful delivery of critical infrastructure projects funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” the group said in its letter.

Image by AASHTO

“AASHTO appreciates that USDOT listened to concerns regarding potential delays and anticipated disruptions to project delivery by providing a temporary, 180-day waiver for the new category of construction materials,” the organization added. “However, states continue to have significant concerns regarding the readiness of industry for this transition and the tremendous potential near-term negative impact on the delivery of needed transportation projects in communities around the country.”

AASHTO said more preparatory work – including robust market research into the availability of American-made goods in the broad cross-section of materials covered by the new requirements – needs to be undertaken at the federal level to ensure a less disruptive transition to American made products, as well as to provide time for adjustments in the sourcing of listed construction materials.

The group noted that domestic manufacturing is currently unable to ensure the availability and timely delivery of many materials needed for transportation projects that are underway, resulting in sometimes significant project delays and increased costs for limited materials.

Photo by the New Hampshire DOT

“Various parts of the country are experiencing availability and supply chain issues with items such as structural steel, guardrail, wire mesh, epoxy products, lumber, and rubber,” AASHTO said in its letter.

“A forced transition to the new Buy America requirements will exacerbate delays and increase costs if contractors are forced to abruptly shift material purchases to domestic sources, which in turn may struggle with availability due to limited quantities and high demand,” the group added.

Thus AASHTO argued for a more “gradual approach” to the implementation of the new requirements – including providing support to the manufacturing industry as they work to increase production and establish new material sources within the United States –to encourage industry development while minimizing disruptions to project delivery and ensuring that current supply issues are not worsened.

“AASHTO asserts that it is in the public interest that critical infrastructure projects intended to improve mobility and access for the American public not be disrupted while transportation agencies continue to make good-faith efforts to integrate the new Buy America requirements into their program and project delivery processes,” the group noted.

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