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January 28, 2009 - ASCE Letter - supporting proposals in H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

January 28, 2009

The Honorable James Oberstar
Chairman
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

On behalf of the more than 146,000 members of the American Society of Civil Engineers
(ASCE), I am writing to support the infrastructure investment proposals in H.R. 1, the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
, when the bill is voted on today. We support three
critical amendments to the bill, and we oppose an amendment that would reduce funding for
Amtrak.

Today ASCE released its 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. We gave 15 systems
an overall grade of D, and we believe that America must invest an estimated $2.2 trillion over
the next five years to bring the nation’s infrastructure into a good condition.

With respect to ARRA, we strongly support:

Amendment # 70 (Nadler and others). This would increase capital funding for public transit
from $9 billion to $12 billion. Transit use has increased faster than any other mode of
transportation, rising 25 percent between 1995 and 2005. Federal investment has not kept
pace with the increase in ridership, and declining income from the federal motor fuels tax further
threatens governments' ability to maintain and improve service. The Federal Transit
Administration estimates $15.8 billion is needed annually to maintain conditions, and $21.6
billion is needed to improve to "good" conditions.

Amendment # 95 (Shuster). This would clarify that federal funds received by states under the
bill for highway maintenance may not be used to replace existing funds in place for
transportation projects. This will ensure that new ARRA funding does not simply displace
money already on hand for urgently needed projects.

Amendment # 178 (Oberstar). Your provision would modify the aviation, highway, rail, and
transit priority consideration and "use-it-or-lose-it" provisions in H.R. 1 to require that 50 percent
of the funds be obligated within 90 days. This is critical to moving funds to those projects that
are immediately ready to begin construction and thus provide the required job and economic
stimulus needed. 

ASCE opposes:

Amendment # 132 (Flake of AZ). This amendment would strike the $800 million appropriation
for Amtrak capital improvement grants approved by the House Appropriations Committee and
authorized by Congress in 2008. The funds will go to priority projects to upgrade the system’s
infrastructure, and the bill specifically bars any funds from being used to cover Amtrak’s
operating losses. Amtrak suffers from a capital backlog of $10 billion along the Northeast
Corridor alone. Further disinvestment in rail infrastructure could place public safety at risk from
poorly maintained tracks. This unwise amendment should be defeated.

Sincerely yours,

D. Wayne Klotz, P.E., D.WRE
President