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

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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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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Alabama Looks to Protect Park Revenue through Amendment 2

September 28th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

Amendment 2 is a statewide ballot measure that will provide a dedicated source of funding to Alabama’s State Park System.  Preventing critical dollars received by the State Parks Fund and the State Parks Revolving Fund, from being diverted to other public accounts will ensure Alabamians have ample resources for the preservation and enhancement of park facilities. Alabama recently saw the closure of 5 State Parks at the end of 2015 reducing the number of state parks to just 17.  These Parks were shuttered because their operating costs exceeded their revenue. A “yes” vote may help prevent the future closure of parks by ensuring the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has a dedicated and protected revenue source. ASCE supports immediate and sustained action to reinvest in our park systems. This action should consider both protection of our national heritage and enhancement of the experience of park visitors. ASCE also believes that monies collected through on-site user fees and concessionaire agreements should be available to be used for on-site maintenance, operations and enhancements. According to its 75th Annual Report, 80 to 90 percent of the annual funding for state’s parks comes from customer fees, not taxes.  Alabama State Parks had $375 million economic impact which includes $140 million in earnings for thousands of people in various segments of the workforce. These same parks generate $10.9 million in state and local taxes. Why not help ensure the monies we invest in our recreation is committed to maintain and improve our favorite vacation spots? Likewise, let’s prevent future economic losses created by the potential closure of these facilities. When you head to the polls on November 8, remember to cast a “yes” vote on Amendment 2.

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Infrastructure Goes to the Polls on November 8

September 13th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

Votes for the President and Members of Congress aren’t the only ones that will be cast this November. In some states, infrastructure funding measures will also be on the ballot. This is a trend that many states and localities have turned to as a way to improve infrastructure. Upon their initial analysis the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center estimated the ballot measures passed in 2014 would generate $15 billion in additional revenue for transportation improvements and an additional $4 billion resulted from those voted on during the 2015 election cycle.  During each election cycle voters approved over two-thirds of measures appearing on the ballot demonstrating the public’s increased understanding of the need to invest in both maintaining and improving our infrastructure. In the coming weeks, we’ll be giving a rundown of the infrastructure ballot measures. Here’s a preview:
  • Alabama’s Statewide Amendment 2 asks voters to provide the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources the option to provide and management of certain facilities by non-state entities. What the question does not detail is that if passed the authorizing Act would also provide for a “lockbox” on the Parks Revolving Fund to ensure revenue deposited into this account is allocated to support and maintain properties within the state park system.
  • California voters are being asked to vote on Proposition 53 a bill that will ask voters to consider how projects funded via bonds are approved.
  • Illinois voters are being tasked with voting on a single statewide ballot measure. Question 1 asks voters to approve a “lockbox” on the state transportation budget. If approved, Illinois would join 30 states that currently place constitutional restrictions on how transportation revenue can be spent. Maryland and Wisconsin voters most recently passed such measures in 2014.
  • Maine’s Question 6 comes on the heels of 2015’s Question 3 which also approved funding for the state’s roadways and bridges.
  • New Jersey will put Public Question 2 on the ballot to increase funding for transportation. While this will not solve the current crisis facing the State Transportation Trust Fund, the question will dedicate an additional 3-cents of the current gas tax to the Transportation Trust Fund.
In addition to these statewide measures, there are also a couple of cities and regions that will vote on improvements to public transit:
  • 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 have approved language, if approved, 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 a majority of votes across Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties.
  • Several San Francisco area communities will see a measure attempting to raise an estimated $3.5 billion over approximately the next 50 years. The revenue generated by the property tax to be imposed on homeowners will be dedicated to replacing and modernizing the BART transit system which is expected to increase capacity by 75% in 2040.
November is a time to focus public officials’ attention on the infrastructure needs in your backyard by casting your vote. ASCE is here to help inform you of the decision to be made at the bottom of the ballot in your home state. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we provide you with additional information you’ll need as you prepare to head into the voting booth. Most importantly, don’t forget to get out and vote!

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Infrastructure in the News: New Year Inspires New Ideas

January 15th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

The new year is off to a roaring start, with Washington, D.C. releasing its first infrastructure report card, ASCE issuing its Moore, Oklahoma tornado report and many states addressing their infrastructure plans for 2016. ASCE’s National Capital Section released the 2016 Report Card for D.C.’s Infrastructure January 14, giving the nation’s capital a grade of C- overall, with transportation receiving the lowest individual grade. According to The Washington Post, D.C.’s roads are considered some of the most congested in the nation. An article in The Guardian explored how gridlock in D.C. and other U.S. cities not only prolongs daily commutes but also raises concern for safety in the event of an emergency evacuation. It is safe to say that gridlock can be agreed upon by ASCE, lawmakers and the American public, as a paramount issue worth addressing. With the new year, many states are taking a fresh look at ways to revitalize their infrastructure. New York, Connecticut, Indiana, California are all contemplating funding methods such as tolling, gas tax increases and annual vehicle fees to fund infrastructure. ASCE also released its Moore Oklahoma tornado report this week, which addressed the findings of a team of ASCE engineers who deployed to Moore to assess buildings destroyed in the May 2013 tornado. While the report focuses on the importance of codes and standards in building construction design, it provides important reminders on the need to invest in infrastructure to make buildings more safe and resilient against natural disasters. Whether it be improving our transportation network or improving structural resiliency, our infrastructure requires constant upkeep. In just over a year, the American Society of Civil Engineers will release its 2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, providing an in-depth assessment of the state of our nation’s infrastructure. In the meantime, 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 State Government Relations Year in Review

January 6th, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

2015 once again proved that states are where the action is! Gavel to gavel, ASCE kept a watchful eye on legislative sessions in all 50 states, worked on ballot initiatives in 4 states, and travelled coast to coast educating members on how to engage elected officials, and reaching out to legislators to spread the message of the critical needs of our infrastructure. Here are just some of the highlights from the past year:
  • ASCE Members at Illinois State Drive-In

    ASCE Members at Illinois State Drive-In (April 2015)

    Tracking 1,300+ Bills: ASCE identified 54 priority bills in 31 states as well as tracked 1,308 bills and 308 regulations during the 2015 session. Login with your ASCE Member credentials to see the bills in your state at www.asce.org/multistate
  • Increasing State Transportation Revenues: ASCE Sections in 8 states (Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, and Washington) supported legislative efforts to successfully raise revenue for transportation infrastructure.
  • Protecting Professional Licenses: ASCE opposed bills in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, and Washington that would do away with all professional licenses. ASCE also worked with the Indiana Section to urge their Governor to reject elimination of professional licensure.
  • Holding State Capital Events: Legislative advocacy days were hosted at the capitols of Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia.
    Inaugural State Advocacy Captains Training (June 2015)

    State Advocacy Captain Training (June 2015)

  • Training ASCE State Leaders: ASCE State Government Relations Staff held the first State Advocacy Captain training in June with members from 11 states and a second in November bringing members from 10 additional states into the fold.
  • Educating State Legislators: ASCE exhibited with the Washington Section at the National Conference of State Legislature’s Annual Legislative Summit and partnered on the Unmanned Aircraft Systems policy initiative. ASCE also sponsored two Council of State Government Transportation Policy Academies for state legislators and participated in the spring and summer National Lt. Governors Association meetings.
Read the full ASCE 2015 Year in Review here.

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