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

Tennessee Senate Committee Receives Infrastructure Report Card

February 7th, 2017 | By: Becky Moylan

As Tennessee’s legislature and governor explore funding options for the state’s transportation infrastructure, the Tennessee Section of ASCE was invited to present the 2016 Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure to the state’s Senate Transportation and Safety Committee. WBIR.com even named it as one of “5 things to watch this week in the legislature.” On Monday, Feb. 6, Monica Sartain, PE and Lukas Slayer presented the Tennessee Report Card, which graded roads a C+, bridges a B, and transit a D+, but warns that without sustainable funding congestion will continue to rise and roads and bridges will deteriorate. Current funding is not keeping up with the needs, as an estimated $475 million is needed annually to maintain the current state of good repair on state-maintained roadways, and this number grows with inflation every year. Tennessee is unique in that it’s one of only five states that is “pay-as-you-go” for transportation projects, meaning that the state takes on no debt for construction or maintenance. While this is a fiscally sound approach, it has made maintaining and improving the system challenging. In January, Gov. Haslam proposed the IMPROVE Act, “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy,” which would raise the state’s gas tax by 7 cents a gallon and diesel by 12 cents a gallon, ultimately raising $278 million in new dollars and funding 962 projects across the state. The Tennessee’s Report Card’s top recommendation to improve the state’s infrastructure was to “Find sustainable solutions that will help us build a transportation network for the future.” The IMPROVE Act or another bill that would raise the state gas tax—last increased in 1989—is the most direct and immediate way to increase revenue to invest in transportation. ASCE will continue to encourage action this legislative session on the IMPROVE Act or another long-term sustainable funding solution. Join in by emailing your Tennessee state legislators.

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Infrastructure in the News: Transit needs in the spotlight

October 28th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

There’s probably no better example in the U.S. of the negative impact that inadequate funding has on our infrastructure than public transit, especially for those who rely on it. The DOT recently announced that 16 transit agencies around the country will receive a share of $14.7 million in grants to support comprehensive planning  to improve access to public transit. Recipients include the Regional Transportation District and City and County of Denver, the City of Phoenix, and the City of Milwaukee. While these grants for research and planning have a specific focus for communities that are developing new transit systems or expanding their existing systems, many other transit systems around the country need tremendous TLC. Transit systems in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Boston, New Jersey and more are all ailing and in need of investment. In Washington, D.C., neglected maintenance and aging cables have caused many safety concerns for the Metro, leading to drastic maintenance regimens that are time-consuming and disruptive to riders. Thus, the cumulative effects of under maintaining have resulted in a huge inconvenience to riders who depend on the system. In California, San Francisco’s aging transit system, BART, is also suffering from the impact of deferred investment. In response to crumbling tunnel walls and warped tracks, local Bay Area transit proponents are advocating for a $3.5 billion bond to support the transit agency and overhaul the system’s 1970s technology. The Boston subway system, the T, (MBTA) is also struggling with the pains of old age. Recently, the T orange line, which is at least 32 years old, had an incident where the motor overheated causing smoke to flood the train cars. This was not a first-time experience for Boston, as smoke previously filled another older train car two winters ago. Amid growing concern over aging trains, MBTA is slated to replace them with new and improved cars by 2019. For the growing number of commuters who rely on transit, this infrastructure plays a vital role in their lives, yet it is one that often struggles the most for funding. Fortunately, states and the federal government recognize these needs and are making strides to invest in, improve and expand our nation’s transit systems to better serve users throughout the country.

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Innovations in Infrastructure: Reinventing Travel Convenience

August 19th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

According to the Chicago Tribune, Americans spent about $15 billion in fares on public transit in 2014. Public transit use has been steadily growing over the past few decades, with ridership increasing by nearly 39 percent since 1995. Yet, according to a recent article in Forbes, more and more people are losing confidence in public transit as a reliable transportation option. Travelers in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, Denver and our nation’s capitol continue to express frustration with their transit and public transportation systems as derailments, delays and unscheduled repairs are occurring more frequently than they should. However, despite such dismal circumstances, Americans continue to rely heavily on public transportation. In an effort to improve public transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation has launched an innovative research challenge. Public transit organizations can apply for $7 million in federal funding for projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to improving safety for passengers and public transportation workers. “With these new grants, the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) is funding research on cutting-edge technologies to improve the performance of public transportation, making a safe mode of travel even safer for passengers as well as those who keep the trains and buses running,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. A rising trend in the world of public transportation is the growing use of microtransit in cities throughout the nation. With seemingly unending options for new rideshare services available to the public, microtransit is starting to revolutionize the way Americans get around. While the idea of sharing rides is not new, better data on mobility patterns and widespread smartphone access have made microtransit more popular. Commingling of private microtransit services and public transportation abound.  For example, The Kansas City Transit Authority partnered with the Boston-based microtransit agency Bridj and Ford on a one-year pilot project that will bring on-demand public transit to Kansas City. This partnership gives Kansas City residents the option of using an app to reserve a seat on a Bridj vehicle, a commuter shuttle service, at $1.50 per ride. This small-scale example shows the potential for microtransit to become a viable public transportation option. While the widespread maintenance issues and investment needs of our nation’s public transportation system are vast and complicated, innovative adaptions like microtransit are promising steps forward.

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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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Congratulations USDOT Smart Cities Challenge Winner, Columbus!

June 28th, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) revealed Columbus, Ohio, was the winner of their Smart Cities Challenge, showcasing an innovative transportation strategy made possible through investment in smart city technology. Like ASCE’s #GameChangers project which shows inspiring examples of innovative trends happening with our nation’s infrastructure, all 77 of the proposals submitted to the Challenge from across the country show how much potential can be unleashed with innovative concepts and new ideas. Columbus’ proposal calls for autonomous transit shuttles between neighborhoods and urban centers, expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure, and universal fare cards that allow cardholders to pay for any form of public transit using a variety of payment methods. Columbus and USDOT officials believe these investments will modernize transportation across the city, while opening up greater access to healthcare and jobs for families living in lower income areas. As the winner of the Smart Cities Challenge, Columbus will receive $40 million from USDOT, $10 million from Vulcan, Inc. and $90 million in matching grants from other local private partners to bring their proposal into reality. Raising America’s infrastructure grades starts with great projects like this one in Columbus, but every project should be an opportunity to change the infrastructure game and build the cities of the future. Tell us what’s happening near you to change the infrastructure in, around, and under your city.

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New Jersey Legislators Introduce Bills to Fix the Transportation Trust Fund

June 21st, 2016 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

Only a few days after the release of the 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure, the political debate over saving the State’s soon to be insolvent Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) looms over both the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly.  Yesterday, legislators in both chambers introduced identical bills to replenish the Fund, from which the State pays for maintenance, repairs and construction for transportation infrastructure.  If the legislature does not act, the state’s Transportation Trust Fund  will become insolvent on July 1. The bills, introduced by Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), and by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), are a welcome step towards recommitting public investment to the Transportation Trust Fund.  The long-awaited legislative proposals call to fund the TTF with $20 billion over the next decade, and doubles municipal infrastructure aid to $400 million per year. If the legislation is successful, revenue for these long-term programs will come from an update to New Jersey’s outdated gas tax, which has lost a third of its purchasing power since it was last increased in 1988. The bills introduced yesterday in Trenton would increase the gas tax by 23 cents per gallon, and impose an approximately 13 cents per gallon tax on jet fuel. Offsetting the consumer costs of these new taxes would be the discontinuation of the New Jersey estate tax, greater tax exemptions for retirement income and low-income workers, and a new tax deduction for contributions to charities. The 2016 Report Card gave New Jersey’s roads, bridges, and transit grades of D+, D+ and D-, respectively.  Among the most alarming statistics about transportation infrastructure found in the report is that 42% of New Jersey’s roadways are deficient, which means over 16,000 miles of roads are rough, distressed or cracked.  Equally glaring is the state of New Jersey’s bridges. 1 in 11 are categorized as “structurally deficient,” and over 40% of all New Jersey bridges are expected to soon require improvements or complete replacement. As the most density populated state and a vital corridor between Philadelphia and New York City, New Jersey’s economic health and public welfare demand that the state prioritize investment in transportation infrastructure. Fixing the Transportation Trust Fund with a long-term solution is imperative to adequately addressing the infrastructure challenges highlighted by the 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure. New Jersey’s lawmakers need to pass the bills before them immediately to protect the Transportation Trust Fund. Use #FixNJTrustFund on Twitter to call for action, and check out the full 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure

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Infrastructure in the News: Issues abound during Infrastructure Week

May 20th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

With Infrastructure Week raising awareness of the important role our roads, bridges, transit and water infrastructure play, this week’s news headlines have been powerful reminders of our need for further action. ASCE’s Failure to Act economic report continues to garner news headlines, emphasizing our infrastructure investment needs. CNBC, and C-SPAN covered the economic impact of failing to invest in infrastructure in our country, and the importance of all levels of government being involved in restoring it. Investment needs are seen in action every day when infrastructure breaks. Transit needs across the country are manifesting themselves through subway dysfunctions and disruptions. This week there was a large fire in the NYC subway that impacted thousands of train passengers’ morning commutes. The DC Metro released its SafeTrack Plan to address safety recommendations and repair the Metrorail system in an expedited timeframe. It is also no secret that deteriorating roads have a very real impact on our daily commutes. In an editorial this week, a Syracuse writer noted that it cost her nearly $200 to replace the right front tire on her car that blew out when she hit a pothole on her way to work. And AAA reported that 70 percent of motorists who plan on traveling this summer are concerned about poor roadway conditions or being stuck in traffic. As if that weren’t enough, a bridge collapsed in Oklahoma City because a truck driver did not realize he did not have sufficient clearance, causing road shutdowns and costing an estimated $50,000 in debris removal alone. Improving our nation’s infrastructure only comes when it is prioritized and properly funded. Even though Infrastructure Week, is coming to a close you can still share that #InfrastructureMatters by sending a letter to your elected officials.

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Infrastructure in the News: Invest Now or Pay Later

April 15th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

Water and transit have each had their fair share of media attention this week. Water Week has highlighted our nation’s water infrastructure conditions and transit hearings and incidents are reinforcing investment needs. Water Week highlighted diverse needs across the country as more than 100 water and wastewater utility managers, operators and engineers visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for more federal investment in water infrastructure. There have been many articles about the state of our nation’s drinking water, water main ruptures, and water infrastructure overall, further pointing to the need for solid investment and maintenance. Transit needs also continue to dominate the news. While transit centers in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and China are building new subways, subways in even our wealthiest cities are suffering from lack of maintenance. In our nation’s capital, the Metro subway system has been encountering many issues lately that have prompted Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to work towards a diligent plan of repair and maintenance.  In order to provide adequate maintenance, Metro needs $25 billion over the next 10 years to run the system.  Yet Congress denied Metro increased funding to put towards Metro repairs. It is important to have a holistic view of infrastructure, because poor transit and water infrastructure affects our competitiveness as a nation overall. An article in MSN explained how declining quality, reliability and safety of our transportation infrastructure affects business costs and job growth. In just a few weeks, ASCE will be releasing its updated Failure to Act Economic Study to reflect the latest numbers on how failing to invest in infrastructure is affecting our nation’s competitiveness. In order to meet the increasing demands of our nation’s water and transit needs, it is important that local, state and federal governments work together to find long-term, sustainable funding that will revitalize these sectors.

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Underinvestment Led to Transit Woes

April 7th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Washington D.C.’s Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)—initially opened around the same time in the 1970s—are facing challenges of being underfunded and ill-equipped to handle the needs of the populations they serve today. In their own ways, each is drawing attention to the negative effects of deferred maintenance. In mid-March, WMATA’s new General Manager Paul Wiedefeld closed the system on a weekday to make emergency inspections and repairs. This unprecedented move exhibited a dedication to and focus on safety. As it should be. Civil engineers, as stewards of the nation’s infrastructure, take an oath to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. And one of the Report Card’s key grading criteria is safety. Wiedefeld announced he is now working to evaluate the system and identify the most pressing maintenance needs and devising a plan to address them. The equation to how we got to this place (and to a “D+” GPA for infrastructure more broadly) is simple. Underinvestment + lack of maintenance = deficient infrastructure. BART’s twitter earned attention when it made these points in response to frustrated travelers. One tweet read “This is our reality” because the system was designed to move far fewer people and many components of the system have reached the end of their useful design life. When a system is frequently delayed, or has to close for emergency repairs the cost to the economy becomes very real. We often talk about how we only notice infrastructure when it’s not working. Well, for riders of BART and D.C. Metro that’s far too often. In some ways, the users in those cities are the “lucky” ones however, compared to the 45% of the U.S. population who don’t have reliable access to transit at all. Between these two truths, the needs are blatant. Large systems in major metropolitan areas, such as BART and WMATA, need funding from the local, state, and federal levels to address the backlog of needs. As more people choose to live in urban areas, the ability to have transportation choices and move efficiently on public transit becomes all the more important. The time to start thinking about how these systems work for the next 40 years is today. And the time to start investing in those systems was yesterday.

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