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

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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The House hits snooze for long-term bill until October

July 31st, 2015 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

With July wrapping up, the House throwing in the towel and settling for another three-month extension as the Senate passing the DRIVE Act, hopes for a long-term highway funding solution are pushed back again. Before heading home for August recess the House and Senate passed another short-term patch that will provide $8 billion of funding to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat a bit long, with program authorization set to expire on October 29th. Meanwhile, the Senate approved the DRIVE Act, a six-year surface transportation bill. It is the first long-term bill in a long time, which gives the transportation community something to celebrate. However, the DRIVE Act does not fully meet the investment needs of our nation’s aging infrastructure. With a bill now passed by the upper chamber, it’s up to the House to make this most recent short-term extension the last, and there are plenty of reasons to get it done. Among them, we are losing time and money because of the poor condition of our transportation network and it’s a drag on the economy. Years of cutbacks in federal funding and the uncertainty of long-term funding because of the frequency of short-term patches are hindering states ability to make transportation improvements. States including Iowa, Ohio and others are struggling to fund much-needed construction projects because of the lack of certainty for a federal program. Several states have taken measures to provide for their own transportation funding needs, including Washington, which just increased its gas tax by seven cents, South Dakota, Oregon, North Carolina and West Virginia, but the states cannot go it alone. Federal funding for the Highway Trust Fund would not only serve to improve much-needed infrastructure investments, but would pave the way for more innovative infrastructure, as featured in ASCE’s #GameChangers report. Therefore it is essential that Congress work diligently in the next three months to find a long-term funding solution. “In the next three months, ASCE urges the House and Senate to work through their policy differences and continue the legacy of the Highway Trust Fund,” said Tom Smith, ASCE’s executive director. “This short-term extension needs to be the last and we believe it can be, so long as Congress moves the nation forward by working together in a bipartisan way to finish their work on improving America’s surface transportation infrastructure.” You can write your representative a letter or call their office and share the message to #FixTheTrustFund by the Oct 29 deadline. And say thank you to the 65 Senators who voted yes.

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Despite Senate Transportation Action, House Stymies Progress

July 30th, 2015 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Sens. Inhofe (R-OK) and Boxer (D-CA) led Senate efforts on approving the DRIVE Act

During the last two months, the Senate made good use of its time to craft a multi-year surface transportation bill with an increase in funding. As is often the way for Congress, it still came down to the wire. For over a week, the U.S. Senate has been in a mad dash to complete its work on a multi-year surface transportation bill before the looming July 31 legislative deadline hits. With the help of ASCE members, fellow coalition members including Associated General Contractors, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, many other groups, and the public, the Senate was successful in doing so – with even a little bit of time to spare. Today the Senate delivered to the House for consideration a six-year, $350 billion road, bridge and transit policy bill that provides three-years of dedicated funding and boosts current investment levels. The only problem? The House is not in session to take it up and pass it before the Friday deadline. In the Congressional equivalent of ding-dong-ditch, yesterday the House passed and sent to the Senate a three-month program extension just as House members left town for August recess, which meant the Senate had no option but to pass the three-month extension in order to avoid a program shutdown on July 31. So in the end the Senate was successful in doing its work, but was unable to get their effort signed into law by the July 31 deadline because the House left town early and refused to take it up. The Senate bill’s funding increases for highway and transit are a step in right direction, but still far below the investment levels America needs to address its aging roads, bridges, and transit systems. However, when compared to the horrible status-quo that the federal program finds itself in – a seemingly endless cycle of short-term extensions combined with a continued deterioration of the purchasing power of transportation dollars – the Senate bill was the most promising legislation proposed during the two-month extension. “In the next three months, ASCE urges the House and Senate to work through their policy differences and continue the legacy of the Highway Trust Fund,” said Tom Smith, ASCE’s executive director. “This short-term extension needs to be the last and we believe it can be, so long as Congress moves the nation forward by working together in a bipartisan way to finish their work on improving America’s surface transportation infrastructure.” Of note the Senate bill: • Provides six years of policy reforms and contract authority for highways and transit programs, thus ending the cycle of short-term, multi-month program extensions; • Provides three years of dedicated revenue to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) so states can deliver more long-term projects; • Increases funding levels for both highway, transit and passenger rail programs in order to reduce our nation’s maintenance and construction backlog; • Provides for a new national dedicated freight program to improve goods movement; • Contains bipartisan permitting reforms that would set deadlines for project decisions, increase transparency and reduce litigation delays; and • Contains a federal pilot program for future user-fee revenue generating systems like those currently being tested in some states regarding vehicle miles traveled (VMT). While the summer legislative battle is over and victory was confined to the U.S. Senate, transportation advocates will take the August break and recharge our batteries to be ready for the final fall push when Congress is back in September. Please take a moment to see how your Senator voted and thank him/her on their leadership this July. We will need their support again soon enough once a final House and Senate compromise comes together.

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#FixTheTrustFund: Senate Dodging Potholes

July 27th, 2015 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would fund federal transportation projects through mid-December to avoid the July 31 legislative deadline.  While this would divert a summer construction catastrophe, delaying Congressional agreement on a multi-year path forward is not an ideal option because short-term extensions make it difficult to plan and build multi-year transportation projects.  This week the U.S. Senate is attempting to complete work on a bipartisan, long-term bill and get it over to the House for their consideration before July 31. Over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) managed to steer the bill away from legislative potholes that threatened to slow passage of the bill.  The Senate defeated an amendment to the transportation bill that would have repealed Obamacare and voted to debate reauthorization of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank and possibly attach it to the six-year highway & transit bill.  Tonight we expect a final vote on attaching Ex-Im to the bill (which many anticipate will be approved) followed by a vote to end debate on the transportation bill and move towards final passage of the legislation by mid-week. The Senate bill:
  • Provides six years of policy reforms and contract authority for highways and transit programs, thus ending the cycle of short-term, multi-month program extensions;
  • Provides three years of dedicated revenue to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) so states can deliver more long-term projects;
  • Increases funding levels for highway, transit and passenger rail programs in order to reduce our nation’s maintenance and construction backlog;
  • Provides for a new national dedicated freight program to improve goods movement; and
  • Contains bipartisan permitting reforms that would set deadlines for project decisions, increase transparency and reduce litigation delays.
Please take a moment today to urge your members of Congress to approve this legislation before the July 31 deadline and allow the nation’s transportation infrastructure programs to create jobs and grow the economy in the coming years.  Here’s how you can help:
  • Contact your members of Congress via letter or phone call:  Send your legislators a quick note or call them and urge their immediate support!
  • Communicate with your members of Congress via social media: Most members of Congress have Facebook and Twitter pages. In addition to calling or writing a letter, urge them to #FixTheTrustFund on social media.
  • Ask others to take action: Use the text in this blog to Send your friends, family, and coworkers an email asking them to contact their members of Congress. Don’t forget to add a sentence or two about why passage of a long-term transportation bill is important to you.

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Senate Committee Passes Surface Transportation Bill

June 24th, 2015 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

U.S. Senate DRIVE ActToday, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) unanimously approved a six-year, $278 billion federal highway portion of the surface transportation authorization bill, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. The DRIVE Act was unveiled earlier this week by EPW Committee leaders Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Subcommittee Chairman David Vitter (R-LA) and committee member Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE). The bill would increase funding levels for highway programs by approximately $2.5 billion per year. The responsibility to identify how to pay for that increase, along with the annual Highway Trust Fund shortfall of $15 billion, belongs to the Senate Finance Committee. Tomorrow the Finance Committee will hold a hearing on transportation financing, where in testimony to the Committee ASCE underscored the importance of public support for funding as necessary to improving future financing opportunities. While Finance is still determining how they would like to pay for the DRIVE Act, in a recent interview with ASCE, Chairman Inhofe noted that he believes that General Fund revenues plus dollars from any corporate repatriation tax changes could address the funding gap. In addition to Finance, there are a few other Senate committees that need to act before the July 31 deadline to approve their transportation policy pieces, like transit and driver safety items. ASCE sent a support letter to Senate leaders in favor of the DRIVE Act and President Bob Stevens issued a statement where he said, “The DRIVE Act achieves many of the goals that we as civil engineers believe must be addressed in the next surface transportation reauthorization and accomplishes these goals in a bipartisan fashion.” Some of the policy items contained in the DRIVE Act that ASCE supports include:
  • Increased program funding over a six-year period;
  • Multi-year program certainty that will help states and localities better plan and deliver projects;
  • Prioritizing funding for bridge maintenance and repair;
  • A focus on Interstate Highway System maintenance;
  • Establishment of a new freight program, funded at $2 billion annually, to improve goods movement;
  • Establishment of a new competitive grant program for large highway projects;
  • Increased accounting and reader-friendly reporting of how Highway Trust Fund dollars are spent;
  • Accelerated project delivery reforms aimed to improve collaboration between agencies and create deadlines for agency action(s);
  • An option for rural areas to bundle small projects such as bridges to increase efficiency;
  • Encouragement of agencies on resilience planning and natural disaster risk reduction;
  • Expanding tolling to be available for use on all new Interstate Highway System lane construction projects;
  • Creating a new intelligent transportation systems grant to accelerate technology deployment; and
  • Providing grants to states for continued and expanded pilot testing of future road user fee collection systems.
From now until the July 31 deadline, ASCE will need your help in keeping the pressure on Congress to move quickly and approve the DRIVE Act as well as a sustainable, long-term funding proposal that will #FixTheTrustFund.

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ASCE Statement on the Senate Passage of H.R. 5021 to Sustain the Highway Trust Fund until December

July 29th, 2014 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Washington, D.C. —The following is a statement from Randall (Randy) Over, P.E., President of The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) on the passage of H.R. 5021 in the U.S. Senate: “This evening, the United States Senate assured that road, bridge, and transit projects, along with countless American jobs, will be preserved until at least December 2014. We also congratulate the bipartisan majority of Senators who helped pass the Carper-Corker-Boxer amendment. This amendment will help our economy and put us on a path to actually fixing the Highway Trust Fund this year. “The Senate made a number of smart choices today. By rejecting Senator Lee’s ‘devolution’ amendment, a bipartisan Senate strongly reaffirmed the federal government’s role in America’s transportation future. We know that we cannot build a modern infrastructure system capable of meeting the demands of a 21st century economy without a national vision, and we are pleased to see so many Senators feel the same. “It is now up to the House to act and immediately pass the Senate bill. For some time now, the American Society of Civil Engineers has been urging Congress to #FixTheTrustFund. Through social media, blogs, videos, press interviews, and even a website—www.fixthetrustfund.org—the key word the entire time has been ‘fix.’ Today, the Senate decided that they want to fix the Trust Fund in 2014. “Americans are tired of seeing Congress hem and haw when it comes to making tough choices. Our nation’s infrastructure deficit is not going away until our leaders find the courage to address America’s changing needs. Infrastructure is the backbone of our national economy, and by moving from stop-gap to stop-gap, Congress is only injecting greater uncertainty into an already fragile economic recovery.  The time to fix the Highway Trust Fund is now. “Congress and the White House, Republicans and Democrats, all must come together to find a real solution to the Highway Trust Fund over the next five months. If we truly want to fix the Trust Fund, we need vision and leadership that is capable of looking beyond partisan divides and instead look for answers for renewed investment in America’s future.”

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 145,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For more information, visit www.asce.org

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ASCE Statement on the Senate EPW Committee’s Proposed Transportation Bill

May 14th, 2014 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Washington, D.C. —The following is a statement from Randall (Randy) S. Over, P.E., President of The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) on the bipartisan Senate Environment & Public Works Committee’s newly proposed MAP-21 Reauthorization  legislation: “The proposed MAP-21 reauthorization legislation from Chairman Boxer and Senator Vitter is yet another positive step to improve our economy and raise the grades on the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. While the proposed long-term bill is encouraging, whether or not it becomes law rests entirely in the hands of Congress. Senators Boxer and Vitter know that American families and businesses need a long-term transportation bill to provide the certainty they are looking for. The question remains whether Congress will assure economic certainty, or discard this new proposal for a short-term bill that will only hurt our ability to plan for the future. “Senator Boxer’s proposal continues a lot of the positive work we saw under MAP-21. We must continue to increase project flexibility and accelerate projects for delivery. The more efficient and effective we can be, the greater the opportunity for raising our nation’s infrastructure grades. Likewise, we must continue to focus on how we can increase movement of goods by modernizing the investments of the past for a new economy. “ASCE has been saying for months that we must fix this problem immediately with a long-term, sustainable revenue solution in order to keep America competitive. “Regrettably, while the bill may reflect political realities, it does not go far enough in addressing our country’s investment gap. By maintaining our current funding levels, we are maintaining America’s D+ infrastructure grades. ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure shows that our nation needs a renewed investment strategy for a new century.

“We applaud the leadership exhibited by Senators Boxer and Vitter to start the discussion to solve this problem. Now the question becomes: how are we going to pay for it? ASCE supports an all options on the table approach to addressing the insolvency crisis with the Highway Trust Fund. Our challenges are too vast and the costs are too great for us to continue with the status-quo. America’s economy cannot afford for the Highway Trust Fund to become insolvent—now is the time for action.”

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 145,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For more information, visit www.asce.org.

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House Agrees to Conference

November 18th, 2013 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

The House agreed by unanimous consent to go to conference with the Senate on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (HR 3080) last Thursday. Shortly after agreeing to go to conference Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) introduced a motion to instruct conferees on the National Dam Safety Program reauthorization.  The motion to instruct conferees asks, but cannot require, House conferees to take a certain negotiating position during the WRDA conference.  In this case, the motion to instruct conferees would cede to the Senate’s authorization of the dam safety program in S. 601, which provides at $9.2 million in grants, $500,000 for the National Dam Inventory, $1 million for public awareness, and $1.45 million for research.  ASCE strongly supports incorporating the Senate dam safety language and worked closely with Congressman Maloney’s office to garner support for the measure. The motion received praise from both sides of the aisle during debate and the final vote for the motion was 347 – 76. The House also selected 28 conferees for the WRDA conference that will now begin. The House appointed 16 Republicans and 12 Democrats from both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Natural Resources Committee. The conferees are: Bill Shuster (R-PA)                                                                    John Duncan (R-TN) Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) Sam Graves (R-MO) Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Candice Miller (R-MI) Duncan Hunter (R-CA) Larry Bucshon (R-IN) Bob Gibbs (R-OH) Richard Hanna (R-NY) Daniel Webster (R-FL) Tom Rice (R-SC) Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) Rodney Davis (R-IL) Doc Hastings (R-WA) Rob Bishop (R-UT) Nick Rahall (D-WV) Peter DeFazio (D-OR) Corrine Brown (D-FL) Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Tim Bishop (D-NY) Donna Edwards (D-MD) John Garamendi (D-CA) Janice Hahn (D-CA) Rick Nolan (D-MN) Lois Frankel (D-FL) Cheri Bustos (D-IL) Grace Napolitano (D-CA) The Senate agreed by unanimous consent on Oct. 31 to launch conference negotiations. The bills would authorize navigation, flood control and wetland restoration projects. Both versions were passed with bipartisan support in their respective chambers. ASCE urges Congress to conference the Water Resources Development Act quickly. Additionally, ASCE hopes to see a final package that expedites the regulatory and environmental review process, creates a national levee safety program, increases money spent out of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and reauthorizes the National Dam Safety Program. At this time the biggest difference between the House and Senate bills are on how to select Army Corps of Engineers projects that will be authorized for funding as well as the creation of a national levee safety program, which the Senate bill would create, while the House bill would not.

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Senate to Take Up Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

May 6th, 2013 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Port operations simulations are used to model ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Senate is expected to take up the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) when Senators return to Washington today. At this time, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he will hold a cloture vote on the legislation Monday evening. Cloture requires 60 votes and limits debate in order to block an attempt at a filibuster. ASCE strongly urges the Senate to take up and pass S.601, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2013.  ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded the nation’s ports a “C”, inland waterways a “D-”, dams a “D”, and levees a “D-”. Our nation’s water resources infrastructure is critical to our economy, public safety, and the preservation and enhancement of our environmental resources. In fact, ASCE’s Failure to Act economic study on the nation’s marine ports and inland waterways shows that underinvesting in just these two sectors threatens more than 1 million U.S. jobs and $270 billion in U.S. exports by 2020. The current Senate bill makes a strong commitment to our nation’s critical water resources infrastructure and ASCE strongly supports language that:
  • Creates a National Levee Safety Program;
  • Reauthorizes the National Dam Safety Program;
  • Restores trust to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund;
  • Creates a new Water Infrastructure Finance Innovations Authority (WIFIA); and
  • Streamlines the project approval process for water resources projects.
During debate ASCE urges the Senate to consider a nine cent increase in the user fee for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF). The IWTF, which was created in 1978, now funds half the cost of new construction and major rehabilitation of the inland waterway infrastructure. Increasing the user fee on the inland waterways system from 20 cents per gallon to 29 cents is long overdue and will allow for an increase in overall spending on the system. ASCE Key Contacts should reach out to their Senators and urge them to support WRDA when it reaches the Senate floor.
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House and Senate Pass Budget Resolutions for 2014

April 2nd, 2013 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Capitol

Capitol (Photo credit: rpongsaj)

The Senate passed a budget resolution for the first time in four years on March 23 that calls for reducing the federal deficit by $1.85 trillion over 10 years.  The Senate also approved provisions in the resolution for Fiscal year 2014 that would restore the $85 billion cut from the Fiscal Year 2013 budget under the sequestration order issued by the White House this month. After 13 hours of voting on various amendments and early-morning deal brokering in response to frustrated Republicans, the Senate voted to pass the budget by a close 50-49 vote. The resolution is not legally binding but only serves as a guide to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which must begin writing legislation to fund federal agencies for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2013. Keeping in line with earlier draft language, Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) was able to retain a $100 billion jobs and infrastructure package in the fiscal 2014 budget, which includes a $50 billion infusion to fix the nation’s most deficient bridges, airports and transit systems, keeping in line with President Obama’s fix it first concept for infrastructure investment. “The Senate budget tackles our deficit and debt the way the American people have told us they want it done: with a balanced mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations,” the budget document said. The House passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget earlier in March. The budget passed with a vote of 221-207. Instead of calling for an overhaul in how we fund infrastructure, the Ryan budget intends for the federal government to only spend what the gas tax brings in rather than continue to supplement the Highway Trust Fund with general fund transfers. This direction would effectively cut about a third of federal government spending on surface transportation. Currently, the gap between what gets spent out of the Highway Trust Fund and what the trust fund brings in is around $15 billion a year. The House budget also identifies the U.S. Department of Transportation as a department that offers “a number of areas where spending could be cut back responsibly.” It goes on further to state that the federal formula for spending on surface transportation is “distorted, leading to imprudent, irresponsible and often downright wasteful spending.” The House Budget Resolution can be seen here. The Senate Budget Resolution can be seen here.
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