All Roads Lead Through D.C.: The Highway Bill

Highway Bill: The White House

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed what is affectionately called “the Highway Bill;” a $325 billion piece of legislation that calls for government spending of $261 billion on highways and $55 billion on transit over a six-year period.  The Senate passed a similar bill that also contains three years’ worth of guaranteed highway funding in July of this year.  The Department of Transportation has been warning that it will have to stop making payments to states and local governments for infrastructure projects if Congress does not reach an agreement on at least a temporary transportation funding extension.  Now, Congress has only three days to prevent a highway-funding shutdown, with federal transportation spending currently set to expire on December 4th, 2015.

While discussions are continuing around the bill’s details, a recent poll, conducted by ORC International for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), shows support for “increased funding for public transit is consistent across communities of all sizes,” according to the groups.  Seventy percent of U.S. residents would support an increase in federal funding for public transportation systems, according to a new poll released this week.  Trade Associations are weighing in, as well.  “Equipment manufacturers applaud the House for passing The [Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform] Act, a long-term highway bill that will spur investments to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure,” Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), said in a statement after the vote.

You might be asking why a Managing Partner at Heidrick & Struggles would be writing about “the Highway Bill.”

It’s a fair question.

The Automotive Industry “drives” through D.C. as one of the most regulated industries, intimately tied into the Federal Government.  If you recall the Automotive OEM bail-outs of the mid-late 2000s, you begin to realize just how integrated transportation is into government.  While visiting Washington D.C. recently, we met with several OEMs and Industry Associations talking about mobility, regulation, autonomous vehicles, mass transportation, and the effects of “the Highway Bill” on the entire transportation eco-system.  We recently explored how Associations consider redefining their Leadership in the most impactful way.  The Heidrick & Struggles article, adapted from a panel discussion, features insights on leading associations during a time of unprecedented change (e.g. the implications of “the Highway Bill” on overall mobility).  Given the number of trade and professional Associations tied into the Automotive Industry, it is important that they serve many functions for their members, with none more vital than functioning as a trusted source of information.  In this capacity, associations act as the eyes and ears for their constituents on the latest industry trends, pending regulations, and other developments.

The various automotive associations are not only a key partner to “steering” the domestic and global markets, but are also critical to helping to build trust across the industry overall.

Gregg McDonald
About the author: 

Gregg McDonald is a Managing Partner at Heidrick & Struggles (Nasdaq:HSII), the premier provider of leadership consulting and senior-level executive search services.  Gregg’s previous executive roles include assignments as the Global Automotive Practice Leader for Russell Reynolds and as a Global Marketing Executive for General Electric. Follow him on LinkedIn.