ASCE’s 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (http://apps.asce.org/reportcard), which was released on January 28, offers important findings for our nation at a time when infrastructure is receiving unprecedented attention from President Obama, the U.S. Congress, and the media. This is a telling moment for ASCE, one that will enable us to spread our message and participate in national and regional dialogues about infrastructure improvements.
The nation’s leaders rely on ASCE to provide expert advice on the condition of our infrastructure. Because our new report is essential in providing this advice, ASCE made the decision to release the grades and the estimates of the investments that will be needed nearly two months earlier than originally planned. The full report, with its fact sheets on all categories and state-by-state information, will be released on March 25.
To keep the focus on infrastructure, ASCE is bringing its infrastructure report to the attention of policy makers and working to shape the economic stimulus package currently being developed by Congress. Stimulus funds will go far in achieving infrastructure solutions, and ensuring that this funding is wisely invested is a key priority for ASCE.
The members and staff of ASCE have been doing an excellent job in interacting with key members of Congress and the Obama transition team and in sharing the findings of our new report. All of us need to join in these efforts and work consistently during the coming months. Contact your senators and representatives to let them know how important dependable infrastructure is to the nation. Point out the job-creating virtues of an infrastructure program in this battered economy. To become more involved in infrastructure advocacy, consider joining ASCE’s Key Contact Program.
The findings contained in our newest infrastructure assessment support will, it is hoped, be acted upon in a way that is consistent with our document “Principles for Infrastructure Stimulus investment”. In our view, all projects must be carried out in such a way that the following are achieved:
- Projects must create and sustain employment increases.
- Investments must provide long-term benefits to the public, such as congestion relief.
- The long-term maintenance and upkeep needs of all infrastructure projects must be considered.
- To ensure accountability and transparency, an auditing program must be established to review programs and determine whether desired outcomes are being attained.
As the investments are made, proper attention must also be paid to prioritization and selection:
- The project should deliver measurable improvements in public health and safety and in the quality of life.
- The project should provide substantial economic benefits that are broadly based.
- The project should be designed and built in a sustainable and cost-effective manner, and proper consideration should be given to life-cycle costs.
- The project should confer a significant environmental benefit, for example, the restoration of a degraded area, better air quality through reduced congestion, or better watershed management through the elimination of vulnerabilities.
Remember that our new report and the discussion of infrastructure’s role in any economic stimulus package give us opportunities that extend beyond Washington, D.C. The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure is an excellent tool for beginning these discussions at all levels. In your area, and on Capitol Hill, talk about capital spending on infrastructure as a proven means of job creation and economic development. Engage your leaders with the facts. They want to hear from you at this unprecedented time in the history of our profession. The public is crying out for action to fix our failing infrastructure, and we have the tools to respond.
The question is whether you will join us. Many of you know that advocacy is the A of my ABC (advocacy, benefits, change) presidency. Vital information that is not disseminated is of little value. Civil engineers in all locales must speak out about the condition of their communities. Remember, modern civilization does not and cannot exist without adequate infrastructure. We should not stand idly by and watch the continued deterioration of these vital elements of our cities. Better transportation is a key to economic growth. Better water and wastewater systems safeguard public health. Improved infrastructure yields an immediate improvement in the quality of life for everyone. ASCE has prepared all of the tools that you need. Stand up for the value of infrastructure. If you don’t, no one will do it for you. Together, we will build a better future.
—D. Wayne Klotz, P.E., D.WRE, F.ASCE