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America's GPA: D+
Estimated Investment Needed by 2020:
$3.6 Trillion

Congressional Hearings Focus on Aviation, Flood Control

March 3rd, 2017 | By: Whitford Remer

As the President’s repeated in his address to Congress his pledge to dramatically increase infrastructure spending to the tune of $1 trillion, various Congressional Committees have been holding hearings to explore the need. While the hearings reflect broad and even growing support on Capitol Hill for infrastructure spending, they also illustrate major hurdles, chief among them and one that has bedeviled infrastructure advocates for a very long time, how to pay for it. On the House side, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has begun a series of hearings to highlight the need among specific infrastructure categories. Using the title “Building a 21st Century for America,” the hearings explore the federal role in several infrastructure categories. On March 1st, the Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee looked at the state of the nation’s airports, with a panel of airport executives including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and the Greater Asheville (NC) Regional Airport Authority. The executives noted different challenges faced by different sized airports and the need for flexibility, both in how they are able to spend grant money received through the Airports Improvement Program (AIP) and the ability to set the appropriate level for the Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) that airports can charge, which has been capped by Congress at $4.50. During the hearing, full Committee Ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio (D-OR) announced he had joined with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) in offering legislation to remove the cap on PFCs and permitting airports to set the level as they see fit. The panel also noted that under the new pricing policies instituted by airlines, while the ticket tax that funds the AIP is applied to the basic ticket, additional charges such as baggage fees are not subject to the tax, costing the program millions of dollars. Finally, both members of the Committee and the panelist agreed that the recent pattern of short-term authorizations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its programs has made it hard to make long-term plans and have increased the cost of the capital projects. ASCE strongly agrees with the airport executives and supports increasing funding for the AIP, removing the cap from the PFCs and longer-term authorization for the FAA. Meanwhile in the Senate, the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled “Flood Control Infrastructure: Safety Questions Raised by Current Events.” The hearing was prompted in large part by the recent spillway deteriorations and ensuing evacuations around California’s Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the nation. Among the witnesses were Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, Commanding General and Chief of Engineers U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Larry Larson, Director Emeritus & Senior Policy Advisor for Association of State Floodplain Manager. General Seminote talked about his agency’s role in providing flood protection infrastructure across the country. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) pressed the General on the Agency’s benefit-cost analysis formula for selecting projects, which relies, in-part, on property value. Sen. Barrassso, the new Chairman of the Committee emphasized this type of formula pitted urban project against more rural projects in his home state of Wyoming. Larry Larson and several Senators also raised the important point that there are flood control programs authorized by Congress in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 and Water Resources Development Act of 2016 that have not received any federal funding. Larry Larson also told the panel that private funding will not cover the full cost for dam and levee repair. “Our experience shows that financial incentives are very difficult to apply to these projects,” adding that that federal funding would be needed.

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California’s Orange County Infrastructure Isn’t Improving

July 21st, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

The Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers today released its 2016 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card, grading 12 categories of the county’s infrastructure, resulting in an overall grade point average of “C+.” The Report Card was developed in collaboration with the UC Irvine Civil and Environmental Engineering Affiliates, an advisory group to the UCI Samueli School’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. A team of professional engineers from Orange County assessed the 12 categories, including Aviation (A-), Electric Power (C-), Flood Control & Levees (C-), Ground Transportation (C), Natural Gas (B-), Oil (B-), Parks, Recreation & Environment (C+), School Facilities (C), Solid Waste (B), Surface Water Quality (D+), Wastewater (B), and Water Supply (B). This is the fourth Orange County Infrastructure Report Card. The first, released in 2002, gave the county’s infrastructure a GPA of “C;” in subsequent releases in 2005 and 2010, the GPA has stayed constant at a “C+.” “In this first assessment of Orange County’s infrastructure since the 2008 recession, we found that while some areas have improved incrementally, others have declined, leaving our overall GPA stalled for more than a decade,” said Yaz Emrani, P.E., OC Infrastructure Report Card Chair. “Since our infrastructure works as a system, it’s important that Orange County increase investment so that we can move our infrastructure from ‘catching up’ to ‘ready for the future.’” The 2016 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card finds that much of the county’s infrastructure needs additional investment to keep up with demand. Of note:
  • While commercial traffic at John Wayne Airport approaches the current negotiated passenger limit of 10.8 million annual passengers until 2020, both general aviation and military demand fall short of meeting Orange County’s available capacity.
  • Funding shortfalls for needed upgrades to bring regional flood control facilities in the county to its standards continue to be in excess of $2.7 billion.
  • Deferred maintenance during the recent recession has exacerbated ground transportation needs. The existing funding sources are inadequate to meet the current and future demand, and it is estimated Orange County needs an additional $133 million annually.
  • The condition of school facilities has declined in the past five years due to lack of funding.
  • Due to increased volume of stormwater runoff during storm events, existing surface water quality infrastructure in Orange County does not have nearly the capacity to meet wet weather demands.
Given these infrastructure challenges, the Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers urges a number of recommendations to raise the grades, including:
  • Performing continuous and timely maintenance on the infrastructure to prolong use and minimize the need for costly repairs.
  • Conducting comprehensive planning and long-term investment to ensure sound decisions about infrastructure.
  • Preserving the environment while fostering economic growth and personal mobility.
To view the full Orange County report, visit www.ASCECAReportCard.org.

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The High Cost of Underinvesting in Infrastructure: $9 a day

May 10th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

fta 2016Today’s release of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Failure to Act: Closing the Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future reveals that inadequate infrastructure is costing every American family $3,400 a year in disposable income. The economic study, an update to the initial series ASCE released prior to the 2013 Report Card, identifies the 10-year needs across 10 categories of infrastructure is $3.3 trillion, including a $1.4 trillion investment gap. The $1.4 trillion investment gap comprises:
  • $1.1 trillion throughout the surface transportation network including roads, bridges, transit, and commuter rail.
  • Electricity infrastructure requires an additional $177 billion.
  • The third highest investment gap is $105 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure. 
  • Airports, including the highly anticipated NextGen technology upgrade, require an added $42 billion.
  • America’s inland waterways and ports need an additional $15 billion to close their funding gap.
Our overdue infrastructure bill is costing us time and money. The report identifies the following economic ramifications:
  • $3.9 trillion in GDP, more than the 2013 GDP of Germany
  • $7 trillion of business sales
  • 2.5 million job losses in the year 2025
  • $3,400 in a family’s annual disposable income each year from 2016 to 2025, equal to $9.33 a day.
These findings underscore the findings of the initial Failure to Act series, showing the economic benefits of infrastructure investment reverberate through every sector of the economy, while the economic losses that come from deferred investment also become worse over time. Furthermore, the longer we delay the more likely we are to need to replace the infrastructure rather than repair it. America is currently spending more failing to act on our investment gap then we would to close it. Inefficient infrastructure is costing every household $9.30 a day. However, if every family instead invested an additional $3 a day per household, we could close the infrastructure investment gap in 10 years. By increasing the investment by $144 billion a year for the next 10 years at the federal, state and local levels, we can upgrade our infrastructure, and protect our GDP, jobs, families’ disposable income and our nation’s competitiveness.

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Closing America’s Infrastructure Gap

May 9th, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

fta 2016

Failure to Act – 2016 Report

Infrastructure is the backbone of our economy and when it’s not maintained all Americans feel the effects, but what does that look like in dollars for my family, my business and the overall economy? The American Society of Civil Engineers’ new economic study, Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future will be released on May 10th and will highlight exactly how much America’s infrastructure investment gap is impacting the U.S. economy and household income. The report quantifies how the failure to invest in our aging infrastructure impacts the economy, including:
  • GDP
  • jobs
  • personal disposable income, and
  • business sales.
Download the new report.    

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USDOT Proposes We Move Beyond Traffic

February 3rd, 2015 | By: Becky Moylan

With the frequency of short-term funding and authorization patches for the Highway Trust Fund lately, it may seem that a long-term outlook for our transportation system is not top-of-mind. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation yesterday started a conversation to get Americans talking about where our transportation network should go in the next 30 years. The Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, joined Google’s Eric Schmidt for a Google Talk to discuss these challenges and opportunities. Watch the full conversation, which includes questions ranging from pedestrian safety to high-speed rail. Sec. Foxx also introduced the draft of Beyond Traffic: A Blue Paper, which is now available for review and open for comments. During the drafting process, ASCE members shared their ideas during visioning workshops. The blue paper identifies three strategies to decrease traffic and enhance our transportation system. Sec. Foxx shares them in his letter to the reader (p.iii-vi):
  • Take better care of America’s legacy transportation systems
  • Build what is new and necessary, while considering how it can adapt in the future
  • Use technologies and better design approaches that will maximize our old and new transportation assets
These key strategies will require a greater investment in transportation infrastructure and more adaptive policymaking by all levels of government. The paper assesses transportation trends for how we move people and goods and fund transportation projects, looks at the implications for seven transportation systems in the U.S., and offers suggestions for shaping the future of transportation. Take the opportunity to learn about where the U.S. DOT envisions transportation will go and contribute your own thoughts, expertise and experiences to the process.

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The Time is Now to Invest in Airports

October 2nd, 2014 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Travel delays at airports have become all too common place. In fact, the surprise usually is that a flight makes it to its destination on time (or if the travel gods are feeling particularly generous, you might make it to your destination a few minutes early). Some of this is beyond anyone’s control: weather patterns and airplane mechanical problems to name a few. But part of this problem is most certainly self-imposed. Inadequate investment in the nation’s aviation system has real consequences, beyond simply making you a few minutes late for check-in at your arriving hotel. In ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure the Society gave a grade of “D” to the aviation sector. Our Failure to Act report highlights the sobering reality that this lack of aviation sector investment has on the broader U.S. economy: a projected $313 billion in loss of GDP by 2020 and 350,000 fewer jobs throughout the economy by 2020. The Society’s dedication to this issue does not stop with economic reports, but rather this data is the gateway to engaging elected officials to act on solutions to these problems. That is why ASCE recently joined with aviation sector stakeholders, such as airports and state legislators, to supports an increase in the passenger facility charge (PFC) cap which would allow airports to raise necessary funds locally for improving the nation’s aviation infrastructure. Funds raised through PFCs are only eligible for use at the airport in which they were collected and can be used on projects to preserve or enhance the safety, security and capacity of the national air transportation system. This funding solution is expected to be under consideration when Congress turns its attention crafting to a broader Federal Aviation Authorization (FAA) reform bill early next year. Until then, you can show support for an improved aviation system by writing your Members of Congress here and using the hashtag #AirportsUnited to help spread the message. It’s time to take human error related to political gridlock out of the equation when it comes to getting travelers to their destinations safely, on-time and hopefully with a little less stress.

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Lighting Airports Runways with LEDs Saves Big for Raleigh

December 9th, 2013 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

America needs solutions to our infrastructure issues that can work today, and what if it’s as simple as switching out the lights? The replacement of the entire airfield electrical system at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) represents the first major air carrier airport in the United States to complete a full airfield conversion to FAA-certified LED airfield lighting. Beginning in 2008, the $20 million, two-year project replaced roughly 230 signs and 3,200 bulbs lighted with incandescent lighting — everything from taxiway edge and centerline lighting to runway centerline lights, obstruction lights, touchdown zone lights, runway end identifier lights, and elevated and in-pavement guard lights — with LED technology. The transition will save approximately $400,000 per year in energy and maintenance costs, including labor and parts. With AIP funds covering 75 percent of Phase One and North Carolina state funds and federal stimulus funds combining for Phase Two, maintenance savings alone are expected to recoup the airport’s portion of the project’s cost within 18 months. Find out more here on RDU’s website.

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