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

Senate Commerce Subcommittee Explores Multimodal Transportation System Needs

February 16th, 2017 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security convened their first hearing of the 115th Congress. “Moving America: Stakeholder Perspectives on our Multimodal Transportation System” was billed as an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss strategies for improving the efficiency and safety of the nation’s multimodal freight network. In her opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Deb Fischer (R-NB) applauded the previous Congress for passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Unfortunately, acknowledged the Senator, the chronic insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund was not addressed in a meaningful and long-term way by the FAST Act. To mitigate future shortfalls, which are forecasted to resume in 2020 (the same year the FAST Act expires), Senator Fischer touted her “Build USA Infrastructure Act” during Wednesday’s hearing. Fischer’s legislation would divert a percentage of Customs and Border Patrol fees, which are collected on freight and passengers at ports of entry, to the Highway Trust Fund, as well as offer states additional flexibility as they initiate critical transportation infrastructure projects. Four witnesses provided their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for the multimodal freight system. Matt Rose, Executive Chairman at BNSF, spoke at length about how shifts in energy consumption are affecting his industry. Mr. Rose encouraged Congress to be cognizant of freight rail public benefits, including improvements to the environment, reduced highway congestion and associated maintenance costs, and supply chain efficiencies. He finished by imploring Congress to increase investment in U.S. infrastructure at large, preferably through a strengthened “user pays” program. Christopher Lofgren, President and Chief Executive Officer at Schneider National, provided insights into the trucking and transportation logistics industry by overviewing Schneider National’s best practices.  Current freight bottlenecks create challenges for his company, testified Mr. Lofgren, and with U.S. freight volumes anticipated to grow by 45 percent by the year 2040, those challenges will only increase. It’s imperative that Congress increase investment in the country’s surface transportation infrastructure, which will ultimately improve the health of the overall economy. Tom Guard, Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain at the Dow Chemical Company, testified about the unique needs of the chemical industry when getting goods to market. Mr. Guard overviewed his industry’s reliance on multiple modes of transport, including rail, road, and marine, and emphasized the culture of safety used by his company when transporting hazardous materials. Wick Moorman, President and CEO of Amtrak, outlined the clear federal role in maintaining and improving the passenger network. He emphasized to lawmakers that while public-private partnerships can be utilized in some scenarios, those structures cannot replace federal funding. The federal government must provide adequate levels of investment, as well as in leadership in streamlining and environmental review, and removing red tape. Should the White House choose to release an infrastructure investment plan, perhaps in conjunction with the FY 2018 budget request, members of the Commerce Committee and others in the Capitol will explore how the President proposes to spend additional revenue. Congress, including both parties and several Committees of jurisdiction in both the House and Senate, will be instrumental in determining how to make Trump’s campaign promise into a reality.

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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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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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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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Safe Roads Amendment Protects Illinois Transportation Dollars

October 3rd, 2016 | By: Maria Matthews

The “Safe Roads Amendment” is a statewide ballot measure that asks voters to decided how the state can spend its transportation dollars. More specifically, this measure will protect transportation revenue (like the gas tax, tolls, licenses and vehicle registration fees) from being diverted to non-transportation projects. Illinois is following in the footsteps of its neighbor Wisconsin, who along with Maryland, passed a similar measure to protect its transportation revenue in 2014.  Nearly $6.8 billion has been diverted from the state’s Road Fund over the last 13 years. These are critical dollars that can be used to maintain or improve our roads to ensure public safe and ease of mobility for goods and services throughout the state. A vote “for” provides a reliable source of transportation funding without the creation of new taxes, tolls or user fees. When going to the polls on November 4, remember this:
  • A “lock box” will be created ensuring funds will only be able to be used for transportation related purposes.
  • You will prevent further raiding of the state’s transportation dollars.
  • The measure will have no effect on current or future tax rates or spending levels.
  • Ensuring funds are available for construction and maintenance of state and local roads will help reduce congestion, improve safety and reliability, create jobs, and boost the state’s economy.
Help push the Safe Roads Amendment over the 60% approval threshold it needs to become law.  Go to the polls on November 8 and vote “for” to ensure that revenue raised by the gas tax is put back into Illinois roads and bridges. When you head to the polls on November 8, remember to cast a “for” vote on the Safe Roads Amendment.

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More Americans Dying on Roads

September 21st, 2016 | By: Laura Hale

Last year, 35,092 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, which averages out to 96 people per day. This represents a 7.2% increase in deaths from 2014, the largest percentage increase since 1966. While Americans drove more in 2015 than 2014 and statistically the more people drive, the more crashes there will be, the frequency of traffic fatalities also went up. Fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased to 1.12 in 2015 from 1.08 in 2014. The number and frequency of deaths due to motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. has gone down over the last 50 years, but the recent rise is cause for serious concern. fatalitiesSource: NHTSA Eighteen percent of 2015’s traffic fatalities were pedestrians and bicyclists. Both of these roadway user categories saw a substantial increase in their fatality rates from 2014 to 2015 (+9.5% for pedestrians and +12.2% for bicyclists). These deaths underscore the importance of communities incorporating “complete streets,” which are designed and operated for the safety and convenience of all users. The reduction in traffic fatalities over the last 50 years is frequently credited to a combination of vehicle improvements, such as air bags and electronic stability control, and behavioral changes, such as increased seat belt use and reduced drunk driving, but it is important to remember the impact roadway infrastructure itself can have. Improvements in road design (such as adding shoulder rumble strips, guard rails and medians, widening lanes/shoulders and more visible road markings), road materials (such as high friction surface treatments) and road operation (such as improved traffic signal timing) can all make roads safer and reduce traffic deaths. The Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) collects data, performs research and provides funding to states for strategic, data-driven roadway improvements with the goal of significantly reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries on public roads. The program was reauthorized last year in the FAST Act and given a small budget increase. With traffic fatalities rising, the HSIP will be more important than ever and should be continued and expanded. The White House and the Department of Transportation are inviting tech companies, universities and even the general public to analyze crash data and help determine the causes of the surge in traffic fatalities. The White House released a statement saying, “The journey toward zero deaths on our roads will be a long one, but data will provide the guiding lights to take us there.”

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New Game Changers are here!

September 20th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Today we added 15 new #GameChangers and two new trends to the repertoire. These projects showcase the power that innovation and investment can have to solve problems and improve our infrastructure. “Rebuilding Stronger” and “Sustainable Solutions” are the new trends we’ve identified that are shaping the way infrastructure is designed, built, and maintained. The projects in these two new trends demonstrate that resilient and sustainable infrastructure are more than buzz words—they are tangible solutions to the new challenges U.S. infrastructure is facing. Check out all the new #GameChangers: And if you know of one we’ve missed, let us know. We’re on the hunt for #GameChangers to include in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.

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With Gas Prices Low, Congress Has Opportunity to #FixTheTrustFund

August 8th, 2016 | By: Laura Hale

Last month’s average gas price in the U.S. was the lowest for July since 2004. Cheap gas coupled with an improved economy is spurring Americans to drive more. After a decrease during the recession, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is climbing again. Summer is the busiest time on U.S. roads and many drivers will find themselves stuck in traffic, whether they’re headed to work or the beach. In 2014, Americans spent 6.9 billion hours sitting in traffic (42 hours per driver). The wasted time and gas add up—the total cost of congestion in 2014 was $160 billion ($960 per driver).

vmt 4Estimated VMT based on traffic volume trends. Federal Highway Administration.

A major contributor to congestion is the underinvestment into our road network. According to AASHTO, there is a $629 billion backlog of highway needs. For the federal government and most states, taxes on gasoline and diesel are the primary funding source for highways, but the tax rates frequently have not been raised in years, sometimes decades. Many states are considering plans to raise their fuel taxes to increase their investment in highway infrastructure and last year nine states actually did it. Despite these tax increases, the price drivers pay at the pump has continued to go down—one study by ARTBA even shows that a gas tax increase does not have a direct impact on the price at the pump. Federal lawmakers unfortunately have not followed their lead. The federal Highway Trust Fund has been flirting with insolvency since 2008 because its primary funding source, an 18.4 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and a 24.4 cent per gallon tax on diesel, has not been raised since 1993. Inflation has cut its real value by 40%. The fund has been propped up by $140 billion in transfers from the general fund. In order to ensure adequate and stable funding for America’s highways, the Trust Fund needs a sustainable funding source. The most direct and immediate way to #FixTheTrustFund is to increase the tax on gas and diesel a sufficient amount at the federal level to stop the need for general fund transfers and allow for increased investment to address the backlog.  Meanwhile, there should be additional pilot programs to test charging motorists based on how much they use roads with the long-term goal of using mileage-based user fees to fund the federal highway trust fund to prepare for the future. It’s time for Congress to step up and #FixTheTrustFund.

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TIGER Grants: They’re Grrrrrreat!

August 4th, 2016 | By: Laura Hale

Last Friday the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the 40 projects that will share $485 million in TIGER grants in FY16. This is the eighth round of TIGER grants (properly called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program). The program was authorized as a part of the 2009 recovery act to support innovative projects that are difficult to fund through traditional federal programs. Since the program is paid for from the general fund, not one of the user-fee supported transportation trust funds, it can be used for projects of any transportation mode and this year’s batch of grants includes a number of intermodal projects. This year’s grants award $193 million to highway and bridge projects, $97 million to pedestrian and bicycle paths, $93 million to transit projects, $54 million to maritime infrastructure and $47 million to freight and passenger rail projects. TIGER grants are highly competitive. There were 585 applicants requesting more than $9.3 billion, demonstrating the significant transportation investment needs in our country. The majority of this’s years’ recipients had applied for TIGER grants in previous years. Although the TIGER program is popular on both sides of the aisle, its future is not assured. As a discretionary program, it is subject to appropriation process each year. Over its eight-year history, the TIGER program has incentivized innovation in communities of all sizes and spurred local and private investment. This year’s $485 million federal investment will support $1.74 billion in overall transportation projects. To see who will be receiving TIGER grants and learn about the projects, go here.

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