WASHINGTON-A provision to replace federal rubberized asphalt usage requirements with grants to help states develop rubberized asphalt programs is in the National Highway System bill passed by the Senate June 22. Also in the bill is a provision-supported by tire dealers and retreaders who also own auto repair shops-to postpone implementation of Environmental Protection Agency rules requiring centralized state vehicle inspection/maintenance (I/M) programs under the Clean Air Act.
Industry spokesmen are generally happy with the bill, though its ultimate fate is uncertain. ``We're glad the bill is moving, but we have some concerns about its content,'' said Roy E. Littlefield III, government relations director for the American Retreaders Association.
The $13 billion bill designates nearly 16,000 miles of roads as the National Highway System, and grants the states $6.5 billion to improve those roads.
Some of the better-publicized provisions of the bill include repeal of the 55-mph national speed limit, mandatory helmets for motorcyclists and tougher laws for teenagers who drink and drive.
One provision allows Congress and the states to divert money from the Highway Trust Fund to rehabilitate AMTRAK.
Another provision repeals Section 1038(d) of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, which requires the states to use an annually increasing percentage of rubberized asphalt in federally funded highway projects through fiscal year 1997.
In its place, the bill calls on the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration to develop testing procedures for rubberized asphalt, and conduct research to develop ``performance grade classifications'' for the material.
The bill calls for the FHWA to develop the standards within 180 days of its passage, in consultation with asphalt manufacturers.
Also, the FHWA would make grants of up to $500,000 to each state to evaluate rubberized asphalt or expand existing rubberized asphalt programs.
A spokesman for the Rubber Pavements Association declined comment on this provision, saying it was too early to tell whether it will become law.
But Donald T. Wilson, government relations director for the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, said the NTDRA is unhappy in general with the efforts of Congress to hamstring implementation of Section 1038.
``Congress spoke very clearly in ISTEA, and rubber recyclers made major investments based on that,'' Mr. Wilson said. ``For Congress to. . . pull the rug out from under those people was not just.''
Mr. Littlefield spoke warmly, however, about a provision in the bill that postpones for one year federal implementation of the IM240 vehicle I/M test and centralized vehicle testing stations.
``If a state submits a proposal for IM240 and centralized testing. . . , it can go ahead, but the EPA can't force the issue or penalize states for using decentralized testing,'' Mr. Littlefield said.