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Annual Report 2011: Infrastructure

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Raising the National Profile on
Infrastructure Issues

•  ASCE’s Report Card Cited in State of the Union Address
•  Dirty Jobs’ Tackles ‘Dirty Infrastructure’ Using ASCE’s Report Card
•  ‘Changing the Conversation’ Summit on Infrastructure
•  Report Asks ‘Can We Come Back from the Brink?’
•  Supporting Federal Legislation to Increase Infrastructure Investment
•  ‘Failure to Act’ Report Highlights Economic Cost of Inaction
•  Sections, Branches Press for Improvements at the Local Level
•  ASCE Members Work in Congress
•  Trusted Media Source for Civil Engineering Issues

In 2011, ASCE continued our commitment to raise the profile on the state of America’s infrastructure and demonstrate the future economic consequences of continued underinvestment.

ASCE’s Report Card Cited in State of the Union Address 

Obama QuotePresident Obama cited our ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure in his State of the Union address, exhorting the nation to renew its commitment to infrastructure as an essential means of strengthening America’s economy and creating jobs. 

‘Dirty Jobs’ Tackles ‘Dirty Infrastructure’ Using ASCE’s Report Card  

The Discovery Channel’s popular show “Dirty Jobs” took a new twist by airing a segment on “Dirty Infrastructure.” Pretending that he had to face his father and explain the bad grades as if ASCE’s Report Card were his own, host Mike Rowe highlighted those who work hard to keep our infrastructure from deteriorating.  

‘Changing the Conversation’ on Infrastructure

Former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) and former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) were among the experts gathered by ASCE to discuss forging a bipartisan commitment to “Changing the Conversation: Advancing a National Infrastructure Improvement Agenda.” The two-day summit included frank discussions on how to shift the national discourse on infrastructure in ways that will lead to modernizing our aging, challenged systems. A major obstacle identified by participants was the need to persuade the public that they'll get what they pay for with new investments. ASCE partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Building America’s Future Coalition, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Planning Association, LiUNA, and the Center for National Policy to organize this summit. 

Report Asks ‘Can We Come Back from the Brink?’  

The “Five Key Solutions” posed in the Society’s Report Card on America’s Infrastructure were examined during a series of roundtable solutions held across the country in 2010. America’s Infrastructure Crisis: Can We Come Back from the Brink? released in January 2011, compiled those insights into a downloadable report which pinpointed the need for federal leadership on this issue while proposing that the problems would need to be solved at the state and local level. 

Supporting Federal Legislation to Increase Infrastructure Investment  

Caldwell Urges Action on Surface Transportation Bill 

Caldwell at House committeeTestifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, ASCE President Kathy Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE, discussed the state of the nation's infrastructure and urged the committee to take swift action to approve legislation to improve safety, mobility, and sustainability. She also advocated for committee support of sustainable and reliable funding sources to pay for maintenance and improvements. The hearing was one step in the process of getting an extension of SAFETEA-LU, the multi-year surface transportation bill which authorized the Federal Surface Transportation Program.  

ASCE President-elect Andrew Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on the economic benefits of improving failing infrastructure. The hearing, entitled “Jobs Now”, focused on policy solutions for reducing unemployment. Herrmann advised committee members that the most important first step in improving infrastructure and fostering long-term economic growth would be to pass a multi-year surface transportation authorization, and that the lack of a multi-year program was preventing states from planning for large scale projects.  

Natale Advocates for Greater Federal Investment in Water Funds, Science 

ASCE Executive Director Pat Natale, P.E., F.ASCE, CAE, testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. He urged Congress to consider greater federal investment in the water funds administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and to support increases in funding for Science programs at the U.S. Geological Survey. He reminded Congress that the remedies for deficits and a growing national debt must not come at the expense of the programs aimed at protecting the public health from the dangers of increased contamination in our rivers, lakes and streams and our drinking water supplies. 

‘Failure to Act’ Report Highlights Economic Cost of Infrastructure Inaction 

ASCE launched a new series of reports that take a closer look at the economic impacts of America’s deteriorating infrastructure. These economic studies look forward to 2020 and 2040 to predict impacts on GDP, personal income, and jobs if current infrastructure investment trends continue.  

Failure to Act - TransportationThe first report was released in July 2011 and focused on surface transportation. The landmark study, Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure, found the nation’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 870,000 jobs, and suppress the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product by $897 billion by 2020. Commissioned by ASCE and conducted by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston, the report shows that the nation is facing a funding gap of about $94 billion a year compared with our current spending levels.  

ASCE held briefings in both the House and the Senate to inform Congress of these findings. Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), speaking at the House briefing, stressed the need to use this report as a way to bring attention to the growing infrastructure problem in this country. Blumenauer said, “We cannot solve the budget deficit without solving the infrastructure deficit.” 

President Kathy Caldwell, P.E., F.ASCE, President-elect Andrew Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, and Steve Landau from the Economic Development Research Group conducted a media briefing and answered questions for local and national reporters afterwards. Key findings of the Failure to Act report were shared with ASCE members through a webinar. President-elect Herrmann also appeared on CNBC to make a case for increased infrastructure spending. 

ASCE Sections, Branches Press for Infrastructure Improvements at the Local Level 

In 2011, members of ASCE Sections and Branches worked diligently at the local level to bring attention to their own region’s infrastructure issues. ASCE members in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire and the San Francisco Bay Area all released local infrastructure Report Cards.  

In Maryland, state Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola and Delegate Jon S. Cardin joined Maryland Section President Frank Kaul in speaking about the state of Maryland’s infrastructure at the Report Card release event in the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis, MD. In New Hampshire, Darren Benoit, chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee for the New Hampshire section of the ASCE, told local engineers and representatives from state agencies and the legislature about the developments and declines the state has seen in infrastructure systems. The Bay Area release was made on Pier 7 with San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, Mayor Chuck Reed (San Jose), Mayor Jean Quan (Oakland), State Senator Noreen Evans and State Assemblyman Jerry Hill as speakers.  

ASCE Members Work in Congress 

Since 1996, ASCE has provided the opportunity for an ASCE member to spend one year working in Congress as a legislative fellow. This fellowship allows civil engineers to contribute technical expertise to help shape public policy on issues ranging from environmental regulation to transportation funding. 

The 2010-2011 Congressional fellow, Scott Peterson, worked on infrastructure issues for Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA). Kristina Swallow, the 2009-2010 fellow, took a full time position this year as legislative assistant in the office of Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). Senator Udall sits on both the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Committee on Environment and Public Works.  

Trusted Media Source for Civil Engineering Issues 

Herrmann, Caldwell on NBC NewsASCE was the go-to source on infrastructure and civil engineering for many major media outlets in 2011. These included, among others, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Reuters, The Associated Press, CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC Nightly News, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Time, Engineering News Record, Rolling Stone, Governing magazine, The History Channel, NPR’s Science Friday, Agence France Presse, Daily Telegraph (London), Irish Times, BNA, Houston Chronicle, Austin Business Journal, Maui News, Fox 13 Memphis and The Fiscal Times.