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This Week in Washington - August 10


ASCE Presents, Participates at National Conference of State Legislatures
ASCE Government Relations is Rolling Out New Facebook and Blog Look
Transportation Group Urges Infrastructure Topic in Presidential Debates
Oregon VMT Pilot Program Continues
Corps Announces Wetlands Mitigation Projects for New Orleans
Pedestrian Fatalities Increase
ASCE Names the Winner of Civil Government Award
State Legislative Updates 

ASCE Presents, Participates at National Conference of State Legislatures

ASCE participated this week in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit in Chicago, IL. The conference is attended by thousands of state legislators from around the country. ASCE President Andrew Herrmann P.E., M.ASCE participated in a panel discussion on creating jobs through infrastructure investment, and highlighted ASCE’s recent “Failure to Act” studies. The conference also featured sessions on public-private partnerships, and discussions on how state legislators can work to address infrastructure funding challenges.
ASCE also exhibited at the meeting, and staff was able to interact with legislators from at least 25 different states who visited the ASCE booth. These interactions provided a valuable opportunity to discuss ASCE’s priority issues in the states which include infrastructure investment and licensing issues such as continuing education and Raise the Bar. Leadership from the Illinois Section also participated in the conference by assisting at the ASCE booth and talking to legislators about the concerns of the engineering profession.

Additionally, a new report, “On the Move: State Strategies for 21st Century Transportation Solutions” was released by NCSL highlighting policies, laws, and programs that are being considered in states advancing the nation’s transportation system into the 21st century. The report focused on policies that would promote environmental and fiscal sustainability; accessible, safe, and affordable transportation options; and economic development and public health.  

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ASCE Government Relations is Rolling Out New Facebook and Blog Look

ASCE’s “Save America’s Infrastructure” Facebook page and blog have a new look! As part of this new design, we would like to hear more from you, our members.

As we continue to add weekly content to our blog, we’d like to feature entries written by our members on issues specific to Government Relations and infrastructure. Don’t know where to start? Check out previous posts and also one of the many articles on how to write a succinct and effective blog post. If you have questions or would like to submit a guest blog post for review, email us at

The Save America’s Infrastructure page and blog are our general tools to engage ASCE members as well as the public on the crucial importance of our nation’s infrastructure, its impact on our daily lives, and how we can improve it. You’ll find that we regularly post updates on happenings on the Hill and in states on issues that impact infrastructure and subsequently the civil engineering profession as a whole.

Staying connected through social media is an added advantage for ASCE members who read This Week in Washington. If you have comments or concerns, or have any general thoughts on how we can better communicate to you as a member, send us an email at 

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Transportation Group Urges Infrastructure Topic in Presidential Debates

Building America’s Future sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Commission on Presidential Debates this week. The letter urged debate organizers to include our nation’s infrastructure as a topic due to how vital it is to the economy.

ASCE’s "Failure to Act" economic study on surface transportation shows that investing in our roads, bridges, and transit systems is critical to the nation’s overall economy. If we continue to maintain current investments the nation’s GDP will underperform by $897 billion by 2020 and families can expect to pay an additional $1,060 annual due to congestion, transportation costs, or lower salaries. For an additional investment of $94 billion annually we can instead creation millions of jobs and save nearly 2 billion hours in travel time.  

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Oregon VMT Pilot Program Continues

Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH) hosted a Transportation Stakeholder meeting at the end of July to discuss the fee-based vehicle mile traveled revenue demonstration project in Oregon. The second phase of this more-than-decade long project is scheduled to begin later this fall and will include 50 vehicles.

The original pilot program in 2007 provided lessons to the Oregon transportation officials and allowed for them to redesign the way that vehicle mileage is recorded and fees are collected. Instead of a pay-at-the-pump concept, the state’s Road User Fee Task Force proposed legislation based on an “open technology” platform applied only to drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The original pilot program exposed design shortcomings and significant public opposition to the mandatory use of GPS technology to track vehicle miles traveled. The new proposal would give Oregon’s DOT the flexibility to establish multiple methods for reporting VMT and collecting fees. The “opt-in” feature that will now be provided would allow drivers to choose the method by which they report their mileage and pay their fees. The revised concept also envisions a larger role for the private sector in the data collection and management of accounts.

For more information on the program please click here
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Corps Announces Wetlands Mitigation Projects for New Orleans

The New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced measures it proposes to mitigate habitat impacts generated by construction of the West Bank and Vicinity portion of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System.

The Corps’ mitigation team evaluated a total of more than 400 possible mitigation sites, many of which were suggested by community members during the scoping process. A formal “individual environmental report” (IER) will be released for official public comment in early 2013, according to district officials.

The projects will be governed by requirements of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. They will involve mitigation of wetlands covering more than 1,200 acres.

Proposed mitigation measures will compensate for impacts generated by construction of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway West Closure Complex, Mississippi River Co-located levees, Eastern Tie-In, Harvey to Westwego Levee, Lake Cataouatche Levee, Bayou Segnette Floodgate Complex and Western Tie-In, including associated government furnished borrow sites located in Plaquemines, Jefferson, and St. Charles parishes, the district announced.

The projects’ summary is here

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Pedestrian Fatalities Increase

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced this week that pedestrian traffic fatalities were up 4 percent in 2010 from the year before, climbing to 4,280 deaths and accounting for about 13 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Pedestrian deaths were mostly at night (68 percent), during clear weather (88 percent), in urban areas (73 percent) and not at intersections (79 percent). Florida had the highest rate of pedestrian deaths (2.58 deaths per 100,000 people) and the lowest rate was in Nebraska (0.44 deaths per 100,000 people). It should still be noted that pedestrian fatalities are still down from 2001 numbers (4,901) and total auto deaths are down by one-third.

The full report can be read here

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ASCE Names the Winner of Civil Government Award

Congressman David McKinley (R-WV) P.E., M.ASCE, is the 2012 winner of ASCE’s Civil Government award. The award recognizes those members of the engineering profession who have rendered meritorious service in elective or appointive positions in government.

Congressman McKinley was elected to Congress in 2010 and is currently completing his first term. He sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and will be running for reelection in November.

The 2012 winners of the Civil Government, Friedman Professional Recognition, Parcel-Sverdrup, and Government Civil Engineer of the Year awards will be presented during the Annual Conference in Montreal this October.

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State Legislative Updates

Lawmakers ask for independent audit of California Parks department
A joint legislative panel asked Wednesday for an independent audit of California's state parks department after revelations that officials there hid nearly $54 million and approved unauthorized vacation buyouts. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee asked State Auditor Elaine Howle to prioritize the investigation into how the Department of Parks and Recreation hid funds and underreported account balances to the Department of Finance and lawmakers. Howle said she could fast-track the audit to the Legislature by January, the start of the next budget season.
Read More: Sacramento Bee 8/9

At last, some stability at DOT
The issue: Transportation issues in Connecticut -- clogged interstate highways, clogged parking at railroad stations, clogged commuter rail cars, and so on -- have been critical ones. They affect the quality of life and, hence, the economy. Unfortunately, since 2000, eight people have served in the position of commissioner. Last August, Governor Dannel P. Malloy appointed James Redeker as commissioner. Redeker had been serving as acting commissioner since March, 2011.
Read more: Connecticut Post 8/8

House weighs pick for Georgia transportation post
Georgia lawmakers are considering Governor Nathan Deal's pick for a statewide transportation post. The Republican governor earlier nominated Toby Carr as Georgia's transportation planning director. The state Senate has already voted to approve Carr. On Thursday, a special House subcommittee will consider Carr's nomination during a public hearing. Carr is a former director of the Georgia Republican Party.
Read More: Macon Telegraph 8/9 

Moody’s awards metro Atlanta a ‘credit negative’ for TSPLOST failure
The note that arrived from Moody’s is pretty self-explanatory. The defeat of the transportation sales tax vote in metro Atlanta and eight other regions of the state won’t result in an immediate downgrading of credit – but could result in one when the state or local governments go bond-shopping in the future. Moody’s was especially tough on metro Atlanta. Here’s the notice the rating firm sent: “In our Credit Outlook released today, Moody’s announced that voter rejection of a 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) in nine of 12 regions of the State of Georgia is a credit negative for those areas…, especially for Atlanta because of the city’s position as an economic hub, which could be hurt by the area’s current condition of infrastructure.”
Read More: Atlanta Journal Constitution 8/6

Branstad sees support for raising gas tax
Governor Terry Branstad during a town hall meeting in Onawa on Tuesday said he sees legislative support for raising the state's gas tax to fund road repairs. Branstad told about 65 people gathered at the Onawa Public Library that increasing the fee between 8 and 10 cents a gallon over three years could receive public support if it’s coupled with decreases in property and income taxes. The gas fee, currently between 19 and 22.5 cents per gallon depending on the fuel type, has not changed since 1989. Branstad last year urged lawmakers to suspend discussion of a tax increase for a year as the Iowa Department of Transportation worked to cut expenses and save money. He also raised concerns about a fee increase at a time of high fuel prices.
Read More: Sioux City Journal 8/7

Maine Turnpike Authority tentatively approves toll hike package
Maine Turnpike Authority board members Thursday tentatively agreed to a modified slate of toll increases that reduces the size of toll hikes in New Gloucester and West Gardiner and imposes a smaller increase on the per-mile toll rate for E-ZPass transponder users. The turnpike board’s 5-2 vote in favor of the toll increase package isn’t final. The panel plans to revisit the issue on Aug. 16 after turnpike officials have finished revenue calculations.
Read More: Bangor Daily News 8/2

Maryland lawmakers looking for infrastructure solutions
The Maryland legislature convenes Thursday to decide whether to expand gambling in the state — but a pair of politicians thinks the Old Line State is taking its eyes off the road. Democrats Senator Jim Rosapepe and Delegate Brian Feldman have launched a full-court press to deal with the state’s traffic, exacerbated by the sprawling suburbs of Baltimore and Washington. And the method is something that’s never been tried before in Maryland. The lawmakers want to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow Governor Martin O’Malley (D) to work with the legislature to develop a list of projects to transform the state’s roads, bridges and transit systems. The amendment would also establish a transportation trust fund that could not be raided to bail out the state’s general fund, an occasional practice in recent years that riles infrastructure advocates.
Read More: Politico 8/8

Dick Hall not afraid to raise taxes
While most members of his party run like scalded dogs from the mere mention of anything resembling a tax hike (try getting out of a GOP primary as an advocate for higher taxes!), Republican Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall is loudly calling for an increase in the state's gasoline tax. Has Hall taken leave of his partisan political senses? No, he's simply continuing to beat the drum for a legitimate state gas tax problem that he's been calling attention to for well over a decade.
Read More: Hattiesburg American 8/8 

New Hampshire
Dollars lacking for repair of NH bridges
While N.H. Department of Transportation officials agreed on Tuesday that too little money is designated for infrastructure repairs, they said unsafe bridges in New Hampshire are closed or limited to a certain tonnage weight for safety. “We lack the necessary funding to keep up with our infrastructure right now and that's our roads and bridges. It's a national crisis,” said DOT spokesman Bill Boynton. “Every time we add one, it seems like we are adding another one, so it's a never-ending list. I think the escalating costs make it hard to keep up.” When asked about red-listed bridges in the state, Boynton said, “It's a pretty long list. I don't even know where to start.”
Read More: union Leader 8/8

Rhode Island
No state transportation bonds on November ballot
For the first time in memory, the state won't be asking voters' permission this year to borrow tens of millions of dollars for the state's transportation system - and running up borrowing costs each time. The change will save many millions in interest, with the savings to increase until the Department of Transportation's debt service costs disappear once the bonds issued in the past are paid off, officials said.
Read More: Providence Journal 8/5

There'll be no E-ZPass for Republicans on this one.
A growing revolt over tolls — in South Hampton Roads, Southside and Northern Virginia — is threatening to blow up Governor Bob McDonnell's road program and blow holes in his Republican Party. Even the guy McDonnell is backing for the 2013 gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, is backing away from some tolls. Through a spokeswoman Tuesday, Bolling — a supporter of the "responsible use of tolls" — criticized as "way too high" McDonnell's proposed tolls on a southern stretch of Interstate 95. Hanover County, where Bolling lives, doesn't like the idea, either, making it easy for him to just say no.
Read More: Richmond Times-Dispatch 8/8

Virginia seeking public input on state’s transportation plans; meetings set this week
Virginia officials are seeking public comment on plans for the future of the state’s transportation network. The state’s transportation agencies want input on plans for all modes of transportation, including transit, highways, rail, freight, bike and pedestrian, aviation and ports. Anyone looking to comment on the plans can do so at several meetings. Officials are holding public meetings in Chesapeake, Richmond and Arlington this week. A similar hearing was held last week in Roanoke. For meeting information or to comment on the plans, visit
Read More: Washington Post 8/7 

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