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

President’s Address Includes Infrastructure

March 1st, 2017 | By: Becky Moylan

On Tuesday night, President Trump addressed a joint-session of Congress for the first time in his presidency. Infrastructure was among the many issues he discussed. The President highlighted the interstate highway system as a the “last truly great national infrastructure program,” before calling for a “new program of national rebuilding” and vowing to ask Congress to pass legislation for $1 trillion in infrastructure investment, “financed through both public and private capital.” Infrastructure investment was one of the President’s core campaign promises. While there still needs to be much more shared about the infrastructure legislation described, including what the mix of public and private capital will be and how this investment will be allocated across our nation’s significant infrastructure needs, this is an encouraging step toward fulfilling what the President pledged during the campaign. The speech came just 10 days before ASCE will release its new 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. The report will again provide grades and analysis of 16 categories of infrastructure and offer key solutions and category solutions to raise the grades. One of the core solutions you can expect to read and hear about is the need for investment, and even more specifically government funding. To have lasting progress for our infrastructure, the federal government must commit to not only financing infrastructure programs but funding them. Funding must supplement – rather than replace – long-term solutions, regular appropriations, and scheduled reauthorizations. This tenet is one ASCE also focuses on in its Principles for Infrastructure Investment, released during the Presidential Transition. Americans recognize our infrastructure needs are significant—a new investment gap number will also be released on March 9 in the Report Card. They are also solvable, beginning with federal infrastructure legislation that:
  • Includes investment that provides substantial, long-term benefits to the public and the economy;
  • considers the cost of an infrastructure project over its entire life span;
  • ensures projects are built sustainably and resiliently;
  • does not replace existing federal, state, local, or private infrastructure funding.
Explore the full Principles and mark your calendar for March 9 at 9:30 a.m. ET to watch the Report Card grades reveal live via webstream.

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Senate EPW Committee Examines How to Modernize America’s Infrastructure

February 9th, 2017 | By: Laura Hale

On Wednesday the Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee held its first oversight hearing of the 115th Congress (video available here) and new Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) started things off by making it clear where he stands on the proposal offered by President Trump’s campaign to use private investment to improve our nation’s infrastructure:
“Funding solutions that involve public-private partnerships, as have been discussed by administration officials, may be innovative solutions for crumbling inner cities, but do not work for rural areas….Public-private partnerships and other approaches to infrastructure investment that depend on a positive revenue stream from a project are not a surface transportation infrastructure solution for rural states.”
A panel of five state and local government officials representing Colorado, Delaware, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming appeared before the Committee and spoke about what their communities need from the federal government to modernize their infrastructure (written testimony available here). Cindy Bobbitt, Commissioner of Grant County, Oklahoma, emphasized that while public-private partnerships might not be a good fit for rural counties like hers, municipal bonds are. Ms. Bobbitt asked Congress to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds. (A bit of background: Republican leadership has declared tax reform a top priority in this Congress and is planning a broad overhaul of the tax code. State and local governments, which rely on municipal bonds to finance infrastructure and community projects, fear that the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds could be changed. Stakeholders, including ASCE, have joined together to ask Congress to protect tax-exempt municipal bonds.) William Panos, Director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the increased spending levels authorized by the FAST Act (enacted December 2015) have yet to take effect. Because Congress has not passed a FY17 spending bill (despite the federal fiscal year 2017 beginning October 1, 2016) and instead kept the government open via two Continuing Resolutions (CRs), funding for surface transportation is still at FY16’s (i.e. pre-FAST Act) authorized levels. Mr. Panos said the use of repeated CRs “restricts our ability to plan for future projects and in our state we’re working with our state legislature now and we needed to ask for twice the amount of borrowing authority we would have otherwise” to be able to cover cashflow needs in the face of federal funding uncertainty. Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) also took the opportunity to highlight the fact that Wyoming raised its gas tax by 10 cents in 2013, while the federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993 and the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in 2020 without Congressional action. Next week has more transportation-related hearings in store. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security will hold a hearing on stakeholder perspectives on a multimodal transportation. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing on the road to deployment of driverless cars.  

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House T&I Committee Examines How to Build a 21st Century Infrastructure

February 2nd, 2017 | By: Laura Hale

Yesterday the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a hearing titled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America.” It was the Committee’s first hearing in the 115th Congress and came on the heels of both President Trump’s pledge to focus on infrastructure and a trillion dollar infrastructure investment blueprint previewed by Senate Democrats last week. The panel of witnesses represented private industry (FedEx, Cargill, BMW and Vermeer) that relies on the country’s vast infrastructure networks, with the exception of Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO, whose union members build, maintain and operate much of the nation’s infrastructure. Getting the hearing off to a fiery start was Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-4th OR), who picked up right where he left off last Congress—emphasizing the need to fix the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) (a bit of background…in December of last year Rep. DeFazio gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during votes on the Water Resources Development Act, criticizing the final bill for not including language to spend down funds collected by the HMTF). Rep. DeFazio laid out three key areas he wants the Committee to focus on this year: indexing the gas tax to inflation, spending the existing $9 billion in the HMTF that has been used to offset a portion of the deficit and raising the cap on passenger facility charges for airports. Members of the Committee and witnesses agreed that these were important issues. David MacLennan, Chairman and CEO of Cargill, reminded legislators not to get carried away by dazzling new innovations like electric cars, microgrids and high-speed rail saying “As exciting as new technologies are, we should also think about our traditional assets. So the remainder of my testimony will focus not on the shiny objects, but on the ones that tend to get rusty: the rails, roads, bridges and waterways of rural America.” The panelists also all spoke about the importance of the federal government providing real funding to infrastructure projects, not just financing. Frederick W. Smith, Chairman and CEO of FedEx even went so far to say that he had been testifying in the T&I Committee room for 40 years and was ready to see real infrastructure investment. The Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to hold its own hearing examining infrastructure challenges and opportunities soon.

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Democrats’ Infrastructure Blueprint Furthers Legislative Conversation

January 26th, 2017 | By: Becky Moylan

Days after President Trump was the first to use the word “infrastructure” in an inaugural address, Senate Democrats doubled-down on his promise to invest in infrastructure by offering their own plan to increase investment by $1 trillion over 10 years, and purportedly create more than 15 million new jobs in the process. The plan, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and dubbed “A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure,” proposes many investments that ASCE has advocated for over the last two decades, including in the 2013 Infrastructure Report Card. The obvious one is increased investment. At $1 trillion—a figure originally proposed by President Trump during his campaign—this or a similar plan would go a long way in closing the $1.6 trillion infrastructure investment gap. The “Blueprint” also emphasizes addressing backlogged needs, which have been growing for far too long and are at the root of our nation’s “D+” infrastructure. The “Blueprint” offers a good start to furthering our lawmakers’ dialogue on what a large infrastructure bill should include, and how our nation can wisely invest $1 trillion, ensuring ROI and addressing our significant infrastructure needs. In particular, the “Blueprint’s” approach of dividing investment across the 16 categories of infrastructure is important to improving the entirety of the interdependent infrastructure system. But to make the most of this substantial of an investment with an eye on the future, it will be even more important to select the right projects. ASCE has outlined its vision for what a large infrastructure investment bill should include in our “Principles for Infrastructure Investment.” We will rely on these “Principles” to engage Congress as it reacts to the “Blueprint” and considers a path forward on this critical economic and social issue, balancing needed investment with judicious planning to effectively address our infrastructure needs. Here are some of the highlights of how the Senate Democrats’ “Blueprint” breaks down from ASCE’s perspective*:
  • $210 billion for roads and bridges – ASCE recently identified surface transportation as the infrastructure area with the largest unfunded need.
  • $10 billion to expand TIGER – Increasing funding into proven programs is an excellent way to ensure that the investment is used effectively.
  • $110 billion for water and sewer – The “Blueprint” notes that underinvestment has happened in our drinking and wastewater infrastructure in part because of a hesitancy to increase water rates. An infusion of additional funding will help bring these systems back up to where they need to be for Americans’ safety and quality of life.
  • $180 billion for rail and bus – Divided into $130 billion for public transit and $50 billion for rail, which will include acceleration of implementing Positive Train Control.
  • $200 billion for transformative projects – Vital Infrastructure Projects (VIPs) as the “Blueprint” calls them would help to elevate not just the quality of our infrastructure, but also put us on a strong path for the future.
  • $75 billion for schools – Most of our school buildings were built to originally teach baby boomers and modernization is desperately needed so that schools can prepare students for the 21st
  • $65 billion for ports, inland waterways, and airports – Broken down to $30 billion for airports, including through the effective Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and to implement NextGen, $10 billion for dredging, lock maintenance and other needs for ports and inland waterways, and $25 billion to build more resilient communities, which ASCE has highlighted the importance of as one of its eight key criteria when assessing infrastructure.
  • $100 billion for energy – Including upgrades in transmission and distribution, along with increased resilience.
  • $20 billion for public lands – Directed in part to increased funding for the National Park Service, which infamously has had challenges maintaining its infrastructure, including the iconic Arlington Memorial Bridge.
  • $10 billion in seed money for an “IBank” – Expected to be $100 billion for infrastructure once fully leveraged, this would be a way to test the Infrastructure Bank concept on the national level. The Blueprint also notes the need to protect WIFIA and TIFIA, two programs that like TIGER have proven value and should be used to ensure strategic investment.
Missing from the proposal is funding of water resources projects authorized in WRDA14 and WIIN16. These programs would improve dams, levees, and other water resource infrastructure that are in need of improvement and would benefit from an infusion of investment. One other major sticking point when it comes to federal infrastructure investment: How to pay for it. Democrats maintain the proposal’s $1 trillion investment would be covered by closing tax loopholes.  Under its “Principles,” ASCE supports infrastructure investment from all levels of government and the private sector. Ultimately, our nation needs a long-term, sustainable funding solution for all areas of infrastructure. A down payment to modernize our infrastructure that is funded, not just financed, will put us on the right track. *Italicized text notes ASCE’s comments on specific parts of the proposal based on ASCE Public Policy Statements.

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President-Elect’s Infrastructure Plan Gets Media Attention

November 21st, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

For 18 months leading up to the presidential election, infrastructure notably was the policy issue that both candidates agreed on. The issue is one that the Washington Post even cited in a plea for a substantive campaign season, and story after story highlighted the bipartisan issue. It’s two weeks past Election Day, and the dust is starting to settle on how the new administration is taking shape, and what its priorities will in the First 100 Days. Infrastructure remains among the most discussed issues, as President-Elect Trump mentioned it specifically in his acceptance speech. There’s been significant media coverage on infrastructure and what has been said and is known about the Trump Infrastructure Plan. Here are a few articles and opinion pieces on what’s next for infrastructure policy under the 45th president: Five Things to Know About Trump’s Infrastructure Plan – The Hill Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan faces congressional scrutiny – CNN Our infrastructure is in disrepair. Will Trump invest in it? – PBS Trump Eyes a Bipartisan Idea to Pay for Rebuilt Roads, Bridges – Roll Call Trump’s infrastructure plan: Potholes or a smooth ride? – USA Today How Trump Might Try to Fix Bridges and Highways – Bloomberg   With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicating this could be an area of bipartisan agreement, 2017 might be the year of infrastructure investment. There’s a $1.6 trillion investment gap, so passing a bill that strategically improves our nation’s infrastructure without supplanting current funding would be a welcome change to raise our infrastructure grades.      

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National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit Talks Infrastructure

August 11th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

This week the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) held its  annual Legislative Summit in Chicago.  Approximately 5,000 state legislators, legislative staffers, federal officials and others gathered to gain invaluable knowledge from experts and fellow legislators to take back to their respective states. Attendees participated in an array of policy-producing committee meetings, issue forums and deep-dive sessions, including on infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers attended to lend our expertise and share the message of the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and the Failure to Act economic study during sessions and in conversation. One such session was on the “Multisector P3 Partnership,” which featured national experts and state leaders discussing emerging policy issues surrounding the expanding P3 industry and its potential role in helping strengthen public infrastructure assets in water, energy, transportation and others. Another session of note, titled “Crystal Clear? State Efforts to Improve Water Planning,” was a panel discussion on how states are working to bring together the agriculture industry, urban areas and clean water advocates to address efforts to maintain healthy water resources, and consider future demand and supply of this important resource. This session featured ASCE Past-President Greg DiLoreto P.E., P.LS., D. WRE, Pres.13.ASCE and fellow panelists Tom Curtis, former deputy executive director of American Water Works Association, John Covington from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Chris Kolb from the Michigan Environmental Council. The conversation included a discussion of the infrastructure investment gap, funding mechanisms including state revolving funds, and how to ensure drinking water quality. This session was one of eight session chosen to be live streamed and archived on the Summit’s website.    

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TIGER Grants: They’re Grrrrrreat!

August 4th, 2016 | By: Laura Hale

Last Friday the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the 40 projects that will share $485 million in TIGER grants in FY16. This is the eighth round of TIGER grants (properly called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program). The program was authorized as a part of the 2009 recovery act to support innovative projects that are difficult to fund through traditional federal programs. Since the program is paid for from the general fund, not one of the user-fee supported transportation trust funds, it can be used for projects of any transportation mode and this year’s batch of grants includes a number of intermodal projects. This year’s grants award $193 million to highway and bridge projects, $97 million to pedestrian and bicycle paths, $93 million to transit projects, $54 million to maritime infrastructure and $47 million to freight and passenger rail projects. TIGER grants are highly competitive. There were 585 applicants requesting more than $9.3 billion, demonstrating the significant transportation investment needs in our country. The majority of this’s years’ recipients had applied for TIGER grants in previous years. Although the TIGER program is popular on both sides of the aisle, its future is not assured. As a discretionary program, it is subject to appropriation process each year. Over its eight-year history, the TIGER program has incentivized innovation in communities of all sizes and spurred local and private investment. This year’s $485 million federal investment will support $1.74 billion in overall transportation projects. To see who will be receiving TIGER grants and learn about the projects, go here.

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Political Conventions Talk Infrastructure

July 28th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

In the past two weeks both major U.S. political parties have held conventions to formally nominate a presidential candidate and talk about their respective visions for the country. Here’s how each party handled infrastructure: The Republican Party held its National Convention first in Cleveland, Ohio the week of July 18. While the city was selected as the host in part because of its transit offerings, the GOP’s approved party platform statement is none-too-kind to public transportation infrastructure. The platform’s “America on the Move” section (found on page 4) is the only part that discusses infrastructure at great length. The solution identified to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure is to take transit funding out of the Highway Trust Fund—an idea that has been attempted and failed in the past—and eliminate the federal transit program. In addition, it states “With most of the states increasing their own funding for transportation, we oppose a further increase in the federal gas tax.” However, it does not offer specifics on how to address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund. The platform also includes mention of the nation’s waterways and the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule (found on page 18). The position states “We must never allow federal agencies to seize control of state waters, watersheds, or groundwater. State waters, watersheds, and groundwater must be the purview of the sovereign states.” The republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has spoken several times over the course of the campaign on the need to invest in the nation ‘s infrastructure. In Mr. Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night he specifically referenced the nation’s roads’, bridges’, and airports’ poor condition. During the week’s events, a few speakers did mention infrastructure in passing including actress Kimberlin Brown, however it was not a major focus of anyone’s policy speeches. This week the Democratic Party gathered in Philadelphia for its national convention. The Democratic Party Platform offers far more mentions and details regarding improving the nation’s infrastructure, including a section titled “Building 21st Century Infrastructure” (found on page 7), which specifically calls out the idea of a national infrastructure bank. In other sections of the platform, infrastructure improvements are referenced as a way to increase safety, build a clean energy economy, and strengthened cities. During the convention, several speakers discussed infrastructure, including Flint, Michigan’s Mayor Karen Weaver. During her primary campaign, democratic party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released a detailed infrastructure plan. Her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) referenced roads and bridges in his announcement speech saying “Let’s build bridges and roads and airports and ports so people can have jobs.” With our nation’s infrastructure most recently receiving a “D+” GPA, it’s good that both parties have been talking about it.

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Pokémon Can Be Caught on Transit, at National Parks Across the Country

July 20th, 2016 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

In recent weeks, Pokémon Go has gone viral across the United States, with millions of users of all ages joining in on the interactive game.  Due to the huge commercial and cultural success of the game, transit agencies are getting in on the action. In the game, players use their phones to locate and capture virtual Pokémon characters in the real environment around them. Players can also pick up virtual supplies at real locations designated as PokéStops and battle their collection of Pokémon at designated community Gyms. In an effort to boost ridership and make transit more fun for commuters, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other transit agencies have taken to social media to promote opportunities to catch Pokémon on trains, collect supplies at PokéStops located at transit stops, and battle other users at Gyms which can be found in many large transit stations.  LA Metro has even created a specific Twitter account @PokemonGOMetro, to make followers aware of Pokémon located throughout the Metro network. In addition to the emerging intersection of transit and pop culture, Pokémon Go are situated at many iconic pieces of infrastructure, including many of ASCE’s Historical Civil Engineering Landmarks.  Pokémon and PokéStops can be found at or near the U.S. Capitol, Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, and many other landmarks, allowing users of the game to experience some of the greatest examples of American infrastructure. The National Park Service has also seen an influx of visits from Pokémon Go players, as many park visitor centers are designated as PokéStops or Gyms. While the Park Service has welcomed the new visitors, they have joined other government agencies in warning players to be aware of their surroundings while playing, and to never drive while playing.  As long as users of the wildly popular game stay safe, they may be able to have fun while learning about some of best transit and infrastructure America has to offer!

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Florida’s Infrastructure Needs to Keep up with Growth

July 14th, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

1Impact of Florida’s Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the backbone of Florida’s economy and a necessary part of every Floridian’s day. The Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2016 Report Card for Florida’s Infrastructure on Thursday, July 14. The report includes an evaluation of the state’s aviation, bridges, coastal areas, drinking water, energy, ports, roads, schools, stormwater, transit, and wastewater (see grades below).

Keeping Up With Growth

One of the key findings from this report is that Florida is growing, and the State’s infrastructure needs a growth spurt of its own to keep up. Recently Florida’s population has grown at a rate of about 1% per year, adding about 1 million people, which is the equivalent of adding a city the size of Jacksonville every 5 years. Some cities and counties are stepping up their efforts, but more needs to be done across the state by every infrastructure owner. The good news is that investments in areas like bridges and smart technology investment solutions seen in ports and airports are raising Florida’s grades. As Florida grows, investing in infrastructure must be Florida’s top priority to continue to be the place people want to live and work as well as attract visitors from around the country and the world.  

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