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

President’s Address Includes Infrastructure

March 1st, 2017 | By: Becky Moylan

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

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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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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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Infrastructure in the News: Voices Rally for Infrastructure

February 3rd, 2017 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

With a new administration off to a fresh start, many organizations, elected officials and other stakeholders are seizing the chance to offer their perspectives on an infrastructure bill. Mayors from major cities across the nation recently suggested in an op-ed that the federal government prioritize distribution for infrastructure funding, modernize and expedite how projects are built, and incorporate life cycle cost into project management. Manufacturers recently testified before Congress to request that lawmakers authorize funding to restore infrastructure as it would reduce cost to consumers and improve the efficiencies of organizations and their supply chains. “If ports are clogged, trucks are delayed, power is down, or the internet has a lapse, productivity and customer service are impacted. Across the manufacturing sector, transportation logistics matter, and congestion—whether at a port or on a crowded highway—is waste that drives the consumer’s cost up like a hidden tax,” testified Mary Andringa, chair of the board for Vermeer Corp. The Association of American Railroads is also speaking out for sustainable infrastructure investments, advocating for solutions that provide long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund. The federal government should “seek solutions that provide steady funding, avoid deferred maintenance and incorporate multiple transportation modes,” said Edward Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads in a recent op-ed. Scott Pattison, executive director of the bipartisan National Governor’s Association, recently said that his group, at the request of the White House, has assembled a list of 300 high-priority projects costing billions of dollars from 43 states and territories. World Resources Institute also responded to the Senate’s infrastructure plan, expressing desire for a federal plan to roll forward. The level of dialogue surrounding infrastructure among legislators, builders, designers and other infrastructure experts is even sparking proposals for a national infrastructure summit. With so many interested stakeholders, a big infrastructure bill could move forward with potential for great success.

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

February 2nd, 2017 | By: Laura Hale

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

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Democrats’ Infrastructure Blueprint Furthers Legislative Conversation

January 26th, 2017 | By: Becky Moylan

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

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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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