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

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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Commission Provides Assessment of Michigan Infrastructure

December 22nd, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

In April 2016, Governor Rick Snyder convened the “21st Century Infrastructure Commission” with the goal of producing a report by November that assessed the state of Michigan’s infrastructure, identified needs over the next 30-50 years and offered recommendations on how the state can best provide its residents with a modern infrastructure system. The concept of this Commission was seeded during Governor Snyder’s State of the State Address during which he specifically addressed the water crisis in Flint and acknowledged the state’s need to address the improvements needed by many of Michigan’s infrastructure systems among them roadways, bridges, energy, and ports. The  27 member Commission was made up of Directors of key state agencies and appointees selected by the Governor and State Legislature. Among the appointed members were stakeholders from the business community, environmental and infrastructure sectors, members of the engineering community and public utilities.  ASCE Michigan Section Executive Director Ron Brenke, P.E. was among those at the table. The result of their collaboration was the recently released “21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report” which identified the following:
  • Michigan must close a $4 billion per year investment gap in order to achieve a modern infrastructure system. This amounts to an over $60 billion gap over the next 20 years.
  • Even with the approval of a gas tax increase in 2015, Michigan’s transportation infrastructure still faces a $2.7 billion annual investment gap.
  • The state must establish a strategic way to better manage statewide infrastructure to enable the state to make better informed decisions about investing in the maintenance, rehabilitation, and/or development of new infrastructure.
  • In order to achieve greener and more sustainable communities, Michigan must aim to source approximately 30% of its electric energy from renewables and natural gas as well as aim for greater energy efficiency.
  • Investing in Michigan’s aging water systems is an investment in public health; many of Michigan’s community water systems were built 50-100 years ago.
The report goes on to give specific recommendations and goals in the areas of water, transportation, energy and communications.  The overall objective is to ensure the state is on the path to achieving a 21st Century Michigan that provides residents with a healthy environment, economic prosperity, reliable and high-quality services, and offers the state the most value given limited financial resources. We applaud Michigan’s efforts to assess the state of its infrastructure and identify critical needs.  We are also hopeful that Michigan’s Legislature and Governor will work together to make many of the report’s recommendations a reality during the course of its 2017-18 legislative session.

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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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New Jersey Report Card Coming Next Week

June 8th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

ASCE-NewJersey-Logo-2016With only a few weeks left before New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund goes insolvent, the Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructurwill be released on Thursday, June 16 to underscore the importance to #FixNJTrustFund with a sustainable, long-term funding solution. The report will grade surface transportation categories of bridges, rail, roads, and transit, along with dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, levees, parks & recreation, ports, solid waste, and wastewater. The event will be released to the media via a conference call at 10 a.m. and at a rally at the state capitol hosted by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto. For additional information contact reportcard@asce.org. Stay tuned for additional details, the release of the grades, and (hopefully) the resolution to the Transportation Trust Fund crisis in the coming days and weeks.

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Infrastructure in the News: The Domino Effect of Water Infrastructure

February 12th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

Recent events, including water main breaks, have renewed attention in our nation’s pipes, sewers, and dams and this week Members of Congress focused on different aspects of our water delivery and water resources infrastructure. Representatives Earl Blumenauer, John Duncan and Richard Hanna introduced the Water Investment Trust Fund Act, a bipartisan bill that will provide a source of revenue to help states replace, repair and rehabilitate critical clean drinking water facilities. Water infrastructure issues can have a domino effect in a community. Last year alone, American communities suffered more than 240,000 water main breaks and saw overflowing combined sewer systems, causing contamination, property damage, disruptions in the water supply, and massive traffic jams. Thus this bill addresses water infrastructure with the intention of alleviating some of these issues. One example of the challenge that comes when a pipe bursts is in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The frigid weather coupled with the gushing water created a blanket of ice for one neighborhood. In addition to drinking water facilities, dams also play a critical role in our daily lives—even if they’re often out of sight, and out of mind. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the biggest source of renewable energy in the U.S. is hydropower, making up nearly half of the U.S.’ renewable energy in 2014. Yet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has classified about 14,000 of those dams as “high hazard potential.” To repair and update just the high-hazard dams, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates it would cost $21 billion. An article in Tech Insider features a map that shows the country’s dams color coded by how hazardous they are and points to the need for the National Dam Safety Program to be authorized. Alabama is the only state without a dam safety program, meaning their state’s dams have not been inventoried since the 1970s. As our water infrastructure, in all of its forms, continues to age, we must invest in it. Therefore, it is critical that elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels continue to prioritize investment into the backbone of our economy.

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Infrastructure in the News: Big Week for Aviation and Water

February 5th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

This week improving our nation’s aviation and water infrastructure were the focus of conversation on Capitol Hill. With a new aviation reform bill, the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, proposed to Congress, the nation’s aviation needs are receiving some attention that’s long overdue. According to the bill’s author, Rep. Bill Shuster, two-thirds of our 20 largest airport hubs experience delays, and the economic costs of congestion and delays, including the impacts on passengers, top $30 billion per year. The AIRR Act would reauthorize the nation’s civil aviation programs, including air traffic control and infrastructure funding. Of most interest to ASCE, the bill increases authorized funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) to $3.8 billion by 2022. This would be the first funding growth for the AIP in over a decade, which is much needed to improve the country’s “D” grade for aviation. On a different front, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Duncan (R-TN) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the bipartisan Water Investment Trust Fund Act, which would provide funding to replace, repair and rehabilitate critical wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. ASCE will be working with member of Congress to advance this legislation. As our infrastructure ages, we need to continue to invest in it. Therefore, it is critical that elected leaders at the federal, state and local levels continue to prioritize investment into the backbone of our economy.

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Infrastructure in the News: Winter Weather Water Woes

January 22nd, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

With heavy snow targeting the Northeast and a contaminated water crisis in Flint, Mich., our water and transportation infrastructure have become a heavy topic of discussion this week. Besides snow days and curling up by the fire, winter weather brings wear and tear on our nation’s roads, water pipes and power lines. Colorado, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, have all experienced water main breaks in the past week due to cold weather conditions. This time of year also magnifies the many potholes that plague our nation’s roads. Oregon, New York, South Dakota, Iowa and Idaho all have their fair share of pothole damage that is exacerbated by the cold weather. In Houston, Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner even launched an initiative to fill potholes that Houstonians report within 24 hours by using a website where residents can track and report potholes. In addition to water main breaks, water infrastructure has also been under scrutiny due to the recent water crisis in Flint, Mich. In his State of the State Address, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder noted that there are pipes underneath Michigan roads that are more than 100 years old. He requested $28 million in additional funds from the state legislature to provide for the residents affected by the crisis, provide additional testing for high risk locations and conduct an infrastructure integrity study to fix the pipes and other connections. In Vermont, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the five-year cost of cleaning up Vermont’s water is about $154 million. Clearly the importance of diligent maintenance and funding cannot be over-stressed when it comes to our nation’s transportation and water infrastructure. It’s up to our elected leaders at the federal, state, and local levels to continue prioritizing investment into the backbone of our economy.

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2015 Media Relations Year in Review

January 8th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

Last year, ASCE was mentioned in the media more than 12,900 times in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries around the world, including 27 major print and broadcast media outlets and wire services. ASCE members and staff interviewed on everything from the state of the nation’s infrastructure to fixing the Highway Trust Fund to Game Changers to the impact of natural disasters on infrastructure. Here are some of the major highlights from 2015: HBO’s Last Woliver2eek Tonight with John Oliver (3/2/15) highlighting the state of the nation’s infrastructure
  • Episode has been viewed more than 5.9 million times on YouTube
 New York Times interview with Greg DiLoreto (6/1/15) about nation’s aging water infrastructure Katie Couric story on Yahoo (5/18/15) spotlighting ASCE’s Report Card and nation’s deteriorating infrastructure Katie Couric - Now I Get It Op-ed in The Hill (7/27/15) authored by Bob Stevens touting ASCE’s Game Changers report. CNBC Closing Bell interview (5/13/15) with Brian Pallasch following the Philadelphia Amtrak derailment Fix the Trust Fund national radio tour led by Andy Herrmann
  • Total listenership: 11.9 million
  • Total number of airings: 2,064
  • Number of stations airing: 1,814

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2015 Federal Issues in Review

January 5th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

As civil engineers, ASCE works with federal lawmakers to pass legislation that will improve the nation’s “D+” infrastructure. In 2015, the federal government passed several notable pieces of legislation that will increase investment into our nation’s infrastructure and also prepare the next generation of civil engineers through STEM education. Here’s a review of the accomplishments.
Carper FTTF

U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE) speaking on the Senate floor on the need to #FixTheTrustFund.

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act Passed As a result of the ASCE’s continued federal advocacy effort on transportation, Congress passed and the President signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.  FAST provides the first long-term transportation program in more than a decade with five years of increased funding for federal highway, transit and passenger rail programs.  Highway investment from this bill increases by 15%, and transit spending grows nearly 18%. Hundreds of ASCE members made personal visits and calls to Congress and promoted the #FixTheTrustFund message making the FAST Act possible. The FAST Act is a step forward for America’s infrastructure. Federal Water Infrastructure Funding Program Made More Flexible ASCE joined with water sector partners to make a new loan guarantee program passed in 2014 more flexible for municipalities.  The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program previously prohibited combining federal low interest loan guarantees with tax-exempt municipal bonds which left local governments few options for borrowing additional money at low interest rates. ASCE worked to lift the prohibition, and this fix was achieved as part of the FAST Act. Strong STEM Focus in the New Education Act ASCE worked closely with Congress as a founding member of the STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) Education Coalition to ensure that the Every Student Succeed Act,the long overdue update of the No Child Left Behind Act (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) maintained a strong focus on STEM subjects.  The Act promotes STEM education by:
  • Maintaining standards and tests in math and science
  • Expanding high-quality STEM courses
  • Encouraging development of statewide assessments that integrate engineering and technology concepts
  • Providing direct grants for students’ STEM educational enrichment activities
  • Maintaining funding for teacher training
Reducing the National Impact of Windstorms In September, Congress passed and the President signed legislation to reauthorize the National Windstorm Hazards Impact Reduction Program (NWHIR) providing $21.1 million for 3 years. ASCE was instrumental in the creation of Windstorm Program in 2004, and continues to lead the effort to renew this program. The reauthorization modifies the program by designating the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the lead agency. The program ensures coordination on federal efforts to mitigate the impact of severe winds with work split among four federal agencies including NIST, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Read the full 2015 ASCE Year in Review here.

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Water Infrastructure Tested as Transportation Funding Deadline Approaches

October 16th, 2015 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

Flash floods, water main breaks and lingering damage from dam failures in South Carolina due to flooding have drenched the news headlines this week. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House is scrambling to come up with a plan for reauthorizing the surface transportation bill before the Oct. 29 deadline. Yesterday, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) announced their latest bill, The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, and scheduled the committee mark-up of the bill for Oct. 22. In response to the rapidly-approaching deadline, Rep. John Delaney wrote a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster cautioning him that “continuing baseline funding levels will only lead to a further deterioration of our already failing infrastructure.” According to a new poll from AAA, 70 percent of Americans believe the federal government should invest more than it currently does for roads, bridges and mass transit systems. Likewise, only 38 percent of Americans believe that Congress is taking the necessary steps to meet the needs of our nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems. Meanwhile, flood damage in South Carolina and mudslides in California have dominated the headlines. In response to the widespread devastation in South Carolina two weeks ago, SCDOT reemphasized the state’s need for infrastructure funding. In California, extreme flooding caused by El Nino triggered a mudslide about 30 miles from Los Angeles. This incident shines a light on California’s vulnerable dams. According to the US Army Corp of Engineers, California has 1,594 dams and more than 50 percent are listed as high-hazard dams. The mudslide also resulted in road closings which inconvenienced drivers. Traffic headaches caused by overflowing water are not limited to natural disasters, as a water main break this week outside of Washington, D.C. demonstrated. The event flooded nearby roads with gallons of water, also causing 250 local residents to lose power. Whether dams or water mains, clearly the nation’s water infrastructure is aging and needs investment. With the October 29 deadline looming, Congress must work together to pass a long-term surface transportation bill and #Fix the Trust Fund.

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