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

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States Funding Transportation Infrastructure: Who’s Doing It?

February 13th, 2017 | By: Maria Matthews

When it comes to infrastructure funding, peer pressure isn’t a bad thing. Over the last several years 19 states have taken it upon themselves to generate new revenue to fund their surface transportation infrastructure. While 2016 session did not rise to match the flurry of activity seen in 2015, and years prior, many states did take that time to consider and debate the proposals that have been queued up this year. This year will see California, Colorado and Washington dive a bit deeper into their vehicle-miles travel pilot programs as an alternative to a gas tax only revenue stream.  We are also following transportation funding legislation in a number of states:
  • Arizona’s legislature is considering a bill that will raise the current 18-cent per gallon gas tax by 10-cents. If enacted, it will be the first-time Arizona has increased its gas tax in 26 years. It is estimated that the purchasing power of the current gas tax has diminished by about 50% since the last increase.
  • Indiana has debated the possibility of a gas tax increase over the last few years. This year the legislature is debating a 10-cent per gallon gas tax coupled with an increase in vehicle registration fees, an electric vehicle fee as well as a requirement that the state study toll roads.  This proposal has the potential to generate the projected $1.2 billion per year needed to maintain state and local roads.
  • New Mexico is debating a bill that will expand the current local gasoline tax to all municipalities and counties across the state. Creating an opportunity for local governments to enact a special fuel tax of no more than one-cent per gallon with a five-cent per gallon maximum has the potential to raise an estimated $40 million for county and municipal roads.
  • The Oregon Legislature has released a joint plan whose goals include protecting existing infrastructure, preparing the transportation system for a seismic event, improving public safety by replacing or repair gaining structures, and improving public transportation. The state looks to accomplish their task list by generating revenue through a number of possible stream from the user fees like the gas tax, tolls and vehicle registration to optimizing general revenue streams like the lottery, property taxes and diversions from the general fund.
  • South Carolina, like Arizona and Indiana, is also considering a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase. South Carolina is currently ranks among the lowest gas tax in the nation.  If passed, this increase is expected to cost drivers an additional $60 per year in fuel costs.  While South Carolina’s drivers may see a slight uptick in the price at the pump, improving road conditions and capacity has the potential to put a dent in the $1,168 – $1,248 per year in additional vehicle operating costs.
  • Tennessee’s IMPROVE Act has the potential to raise the gas tax by 7 cents per gallon and index the rate to the Consumer Price Index. This bill will also increase vehicle registration fees and allow for a local option tax to fund local projects.  This approach has the potential to help Tennessee begin to close a potential funding shortfall.
Stay tuned as these critical bills wind their way through the legislature. Closing the funding gap now can help save families $3,400 per year, or $9 per day, in costs related to poor infrastructure conditions. If your state made the list of those we’re watching, we encourage you to take action now by contacting your State Legislators and urging them to invest in your roads and bridges today!

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Infrastructure Issues Kick Off 2017 State Legislative Sessions

January 9th, 2017 | By: Maria Matthews

By the end of this week 40 states will have begun their legislative sessions.  With it comes the pomp and circumstance of swearing in ceremonies, gubernatorial inaugurations, committee assignments and, most importantly, settling in to do great work for the people of their state. As we’ve previously looked at states gearing up to make major infrastructure decisions in 2017, we have already seen either discussion or movement in many legislatures.  Whether it’s a gubernatorial proposal or potential bill, here’s a taste of what we’re seeing coast to coast:
  • Indiana’s legislature will again explore the idea of increasing its gas tax this session. Just last week the House Republicans led by Speaker Brian Bosma introduced a long-term funding plan that includes a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase.
  • New Mexico’s legislature will take up a bill that will give cities and counties the ability to consider gas tax increases to pay for road improvements at the local level. A bill giving cities and counties the option of putting up to a 5 cent per gallon tax increase on their local ballots has been introduced.
  • In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder (R) visited Flint to sign a bill into law that would requires quicker notification about elevated lead levels in the water.
  • Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton (D) has proposed a bonding bill that includes $1.5 billion in public construction projects. Many of these projects include infrastructure items like wastewater infrastructure repairs and road and bridge renovations.  The Governor’s proposal includes many projects that were approved by the legislature
  • Tennessee’s legislature will consider a proposal championed by Governor Bill Haslam (R) and the state’s Transportation Commissioner. The funding proposal includes a 9-cent per gallon gas tax increase and a 12-cent increase on diesel.
The action currently underway in these states trends with much of what we’re hearing from groups like the National Conference of State Legislatures and Council of State Governments. These group pull together both issues- and states-to-watch lists at the beginning of each session and infrastructure frequently sits near the top the list both nationally and individually.  To see the type of bills ASCE is following in your state visit our legislative tracking website and click on your state.

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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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State Gear Up to Tackle Road Funding in 2017

December 1st, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

Over the past three years, 17 states have increased their gas tax to generate additional revenue for surface transportation.  In almost every state the recent increase was the first in nearly two decades.  Even with the passages of last year’s FAST Act, states are still facing uncertainty when it comes to funding sources.  Cars are becoming more fuel efficient, driving habits are changing and consumers are seeking out vehicles that run on alternative energy sources while most states’ gas taxes are not tied to inflation—and therefore lose value with each passing year. As we look to the 2017 legislative session we expect many states will take up legislation to address increasing revenue that can be invested into their roads and bridges.  The gas tax increase is the most commonly discussed methods and we can expect to see legislation in states like Indiana and Tennessee. Both of these states have tried in prior legislative sessions to move the needle on a gas tax increase and 2017 might be the year they succeed. . In 2015, another odd-year legislative session, we saw increases signed into law in nine states (at that time North Carolina signed a bill that will raise its gas tax but, only after it initially dropped the rate by a penny). Missouri and Wisconsin again find themselves at an impasse when it comes to investment in their transportation system. Missouri attempted to increase its gas tax during its 2016 legislative session with a bill passing only one chamber. The state later included a 23-cent cigarette tax increase to fund roads and bridges on its November ballot which was ultimately defeated.  Wisconsin on the other hand approved a lockbox to protect its transportation funding coffers but, has not be able to reach consensus on how to best fund road and bridge projects, maintenance and improvements. Another state to watch in 2017 is Colorado, which will launch a four month vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) pilot. They will join pilot programs currently underway in California and Oregon. We can also expect to see programs pop up in many east coast states in the upcoming year as they vie for federal funding to determine the viability of interstate VMT programs. ASCE recommends that adequate funding for operating, maintaining, and improving the nation’s transportation system be provided by a comprehensive program with sustainable dedicated revenue sources. We will keep a watchful eye on these states as they move to close their transportation funding gaps and improve their transportation network.

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Infrastructure Gets a Win on Election Night

November 10th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

As in years past, transportation was again the prevailing theme on ballots in most every state. It was not only a time for states to take the temperature of the public on this critical issue but, also create new revenue streams and secure existing ones.  Here’s what the election night returns said:
  • Illinois and New Jersey become the 31st and 32nd states to vote to dedicate their fuel tax revenue to transportation projects. This is especially critical in New Jersey as they have voted to protect the additional revenue generated by the newly increased gas tax.
  • Maine voters once again approved a transportation bond measure approved funding not only for the state’s roadways and bridges but, also airports, ports, rail and transit.
Two non-transportation ballot measure we followed also fared well following yesterday’s vote:
  • In Alabama Statewide Amendment 2 passed with 80% of the vote. The Department of Conservation and National Resources will now be able to ensure revenue generated by state parks and deposited into the Parks Revolving Fund is allocated to support and maintain its properties.
  • California voters were tasked with Proposition 53 a measure that would determine how the state funded infrastructure projects to be funded by state revenue bonds. ASCE urged a “no” vote on this measure as passage would have meant delaying funding any project requiring over $2 billion in bonds until approved by a ballot measure. This measure successfully failed with 51% of voters opposing the Proposition.
ASCE also tracked several local ballot measures around the country, which put an emphasis on public transit. These measures looked to generate revenue to expand public transit networks to help alleviate congestion in major metropolitan areas.  Here’s how public transit fared on election night:
  • Metro Atlanta overwhelmingly approved a sales tax increase to fund its public transit system, MARTA. The measure is expected to increase revenue by $2.5 billion over the next 40 years that will lead to system improvements and expansion.
  • Meanwhile in Michigan the votes on increasing the millage rate to fund the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan was defeated. This measure required a majority of votes across Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.
  • There were several local measures in California all of which would aid public transit systems in major metropolitan areas. San Francisco successfully passed its funding measure while similar measures in San Luis Obispo, Sacramento and San Diego were defeated.
As you head out on your daily commute, whether behind the wheel or aboard local transit, consider these results prime examples of how you can contribute to infrastructure improvements with just a single vote.

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Head to the Polls and Elect to Fund Infrastructure

November 7th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

This election season ASCE has been monitoring state and local ballot measures across at least five states.  The issues covered include everything from general infrastructure funding to transit to state parks. Transportation funding is one area that can expect to generate the most new revenue from Tuesday’s elections.  In fact, so far this year 55 transportation funding measures that have already passed are expected to generate $4.258 billion in new revenue.  You can read about these and the votes coming up on November 8 in the September State Funding Initiatives Report issued by the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center. Statewide transportation measures will appear on the ballot in Illinois, Maine, and New Jersey. We’re also seeing an interest in parks in Alabama. Here voters will be asked to ensure revenue generated at state parks will be dedicated to their preservation and enhancement.  Currently these dollars are able to be diverted into other public accounts which over the years has resulted in a reduction in the total number of state parks. Meanwhile, in California ASCE is encouraging a “no” vote on Proposition 53. While this bill affects the sale of bonds, it has the potential to impact future infrastructure projects as they are often high ticket items for the states, its counties and cities, and other joint agencies.  A “no” vote here will help ensure that infrastructure projects can be fully funded and efficiently completed. Whether you’re supporting infrastructure funding, or opposing a measure that will derail the process, November is the time to refocus public officials’ attention on the infrastructure needs by casting your vote. Check back in with us on Wednesday when we provide you with the outcome of your trip to the voting booth. Most importantly, don’t forget to get out and vote!

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Localities Ask Voters to Invest in Infrastructure

October 25th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

Over the past few weeks we’ve shared information about key infrastructure measures that will appear on a handful of statewide ballots. Now it’s time to look even closer to home at key questions that will be asked at the local level. Transportation funding, transit in particular, is a common ballot question this fall in major cities and metropolitan regions from coast to coast. This year’s election will see nearly twice as many transportation related measures as 2014. In fact, so far this year 55 transportation funding measures have been considered in primary elections and 50 of them have successfully been approved. Those measures already passed are expected to generate $4.258 billion in new revenue for those cities and counties.  You can read about these and the votes coming up on November 8 in the September State Funding Initiatives Report issued by the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center. Among these ASCE is following these local transportation questions:
  • Residents of the City of Atlanta and Fulton County, Georgia will see a question on their ballot asking them to approve additional funding for its public transit system, MARTA. Just a half-penny sales tax increase would be imposed if the ballot measure passes. It is expected to increase revenue by $2.5 billion over the next 40 years.
  • Counties serviced by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan approved language for a proposition, if passed, is estimated to raise $4.7 billion over 20-years for the RTA. The 1.2-mill property tax ($1.20 per $1,000 of taxable value) requires most votes across Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.
  • From Sacramento to San Diego, several cities and counties in California are considering a tax increases to fund maintenance and improvements in public transit. Combined these measures are estimated to generate $144 billion in new revenue.
One non-transportation measures we’re following this fall will appear on the ballot in the City of New Orleans:
  • New Orleans voters will be asked to extend the 4.46-mill property tax ($4.46 per $1,000 of taxable value) that supports the maintenance and operation of the city’s drainage system. The system currently relies exclusively on the millage tax for its funding. If passed, the tax will remain in place for an additional 30 years and is estimated to continue to supply about 28% of the budget, or $15 million annually.  This year’s vote represents one of three that will be put before voters in upcoming election cycles.
November is a time to focus public officials’ attention on the infrastructure needs in your backyard by casting your vote. Be sure to head to the polls November 8 and make your voice heard!

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Maine Voters Asked to Approve $100 Million Infrastructure Bond

October 18th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

Question 6  is a statewide ballot measure that asks voters to consider whether the state may issue $100 million in bonds for transportation and other infrastructure projects. This is the third time in recent years that Maine voters will be asked to make a significant investment in the state. Each of the previous measures passed with an overwhelming approval by the voters and according to early poll data, passage of this bond measure seems highly likely. This year’s bond measure will ask voters to approve issuing $100 million in bonds for infrastructure.  Approximately, 80% will be dedicated to highway and bridge construction and maintenance. The remaining 20% will be allocated to ports, harbors, marine transportation, aviation, rail, and trails.  It will also ensure the state qualifies for federal matching funds for transportation projects. ASCE supports financially responsible actions by federal, state and local governments to meet America’s infrastructure needs.  These actions should support established project and program management principles, including new service and delivery models, innovative financing, appropriate research and technology transfer, and should conform to the principles of sustainability. When you head to the polls on November 8, help Maine fulfill its three year work plan by casting a “yes” vote on Question 6.

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California Decides How Voters Impact Infrastructure Projects

October 10th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

Proposition 53 is a statewide ballot measure that asks voters to consider whether the state may sell revenue bonds for projects expected to cost over $2 billion.  This ballot measure would specifically apply to all projects financed, owned, operated, or managed by the state as well as those of joint agencies formed between the state and localities, another state, or the federal government. Under the California Constitution, state general obligation bonds need voter approval before the state can use them to pay for a project. State revenue bonds, however, do not currently need voter approval under existing state law. On November 8, voters in California will be given the choice of maintaining status quo (casting a “no” vote) or requiring that projects exceeding $2 billion receive voter approval for bonds to be sold (casting a “yes” vote). The ASCE Region 9 Board of Governors has issued an open letter to members encouraging a “no” vote on this measure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports financially responsible actions by federal, state and local governments to meet America’s infrastructure needs.  These actions should support established project and program management principles, including new service and delivery models, innovative financing, appropriate research and technology transfer, and should conform to the principles of sustainability.  For this reason, ASCE opposes Proposition 53 and encourages voters to cast a “no” vote. Investment in America’s infrastructure has been deferred and has not focused on either the demand for new facilities and services or the maintenance and repair needs of the aging infrastructure systems.  The results are evident in traffic and airport congestion, unsafe bridges and dams, substandard educational facilities, deteriorating roads and inadequate utility systems. Let’s not further deter or delay project completion by requiring funding receive voter approval – something that only comes around every two years. When you head to the polls on November 8, remember to cast a “no” vote on Proposition 53.

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New Jersey Puts Transportation Front & Center This Fall

October 5th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

For the last three months New Jersey transportation job sites have been mostly quiet.  Despite what’s traditionally the heat of summer construction season, shovels have been put down and heavy equipment silenced by the impasse between Governor Christie and leaders from the State Legislature. On September 30, Governor Christie, Senator Sweeney and Representative Prieto reached a compromise that will fund the State Transportation Trust Fund and get projects moving again. A vote was expected October 5, however the Legislature opted instead to postpone weighing in on the compromise bill a few more days. The agreed upon bill will raise the gas tax 23-cents per gallon while providing an additional tax offset by gradually reducing the state sales tax.  We expect legislators to cast their votes on Friday and urge you to contact your state legislators to tell them to vote “yes” on this measure. In addition to ensuring the legislature gets their job done this fall, we need you to head to the polls on November 8 to cast a vote on how New Jersey funds its infrastructure this fall.  Voters will be asked to consider whether to dedicate all gas and diesel tax revenue to the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). This will ensure that the investment from the increased gas tax does what its intended to do: improve transportation. Question 2 proposes dedicating all gas and diesel tax revenue to the TTF.  Currently, only the first 10.5 cents of the gas and diesel taxes are dedicated to the TTF, while revenue from the tax on the gross receipts of petroleum products is only dedicated up to $200 million. Under the current gas tax, closing the gap has the potential to raise an estimated $35 million each year for the TTF. This comes from approximately $20 million by dedicating the remaining 3-cent diesel fuel tax and an additional $15 million from the 4-cent gross petroleum product tax.  If passed, revenue gains for roads and bridges will likely increase once the new gas tax rate is put into effect. Take stock of New Jersey’s roads and make sure you’re doing your part to give the state the 21st Century Infrastructure it deserves!

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