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This Week in Washington - August 31

CBO Shows Concerns for HTF
Congress Faces Decisions on Budget Sequestration
COFPAES Plans Federal Markets Conference for Engineers, Architects 
ASCE Needs Your Success Stories for the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
New Fuel Efficiency Standards Released
Contact Your Member of Congress This Summer - Only One Week Left
State Legislative Updates 
 

 

CBO Shows Concerns for HTF

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts both accounts of the Highway Trust Fund will go broke sometime in FY 2015 unless Congress acts to shore up the fund that pays for surface transportation projects. According to a CBO chart obtained, the highway account will end FY 2012 with $8.7 billion and the transit account with $4.7 billion. The transit account could run dry in late 2014.

ASCE has long support an increase in the gas tax to provide additional revenues for investment in surface transportation systems, a move that has been supported by many economists as consistent with reducing the federal budget deficit. However, the political climate in Washington has not allowed a serious discussion on this matter in some time.

More information on the gas tax can be found here.

The CBO chart can be found here

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Congress Faces Decisions on Budget Sequestration

Congress will be forced to consider the potential impacts of across-the-board budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2013 due to take effect in January when it returns to Washington the week of September 10.

Hundreds of programs subject to mandatory and discretionary spending—including many infrastructure spending programs—face automatic cuts on January 2 in order to come within the spending limits established by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The Office of Management and Budget must provide the president and Congress with explanations of the programs subject to mandatory sequestration no later than September 6. ASCE will analyze the report and provide on the ASCE Web site a detailed list of affected infrastructure programs when they become known.

Sequestration was created under a 1985 law. It is a budget enforcement mechanism that is intended to prevent enactment of mandatory appropriations and tax legislation that would increase the federal deficit.

A number of critical infrastructure programs will be subject to the reductions if Congress does not act to lift the sequestration requirement. Among them are water resources projects constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, wastewater and drinking water funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, and dam safety programs within the Department of Homeland Security.

Not every federal program will be subject to automatic reductions on January 2, however. Among the programs to be spared are the Federal-Aid Highway program funded by appropriations from the Highway Trust Fund. Another program not subject to the cuts is the federal grant-in-aid program for airports. 

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COFPAES Plans Federal Markets Conference for Engineers, Architects

The Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES) will hold a daylong Federal Markets Conference on Thursday, October 11, 2012. The conference will be held at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the American institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave. NW. The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. There is no parking at AIA. Click here for Metro and parking information.

ASCE is a founding member of COFPAES, which was formed in the 1960s to enact legislation to require the use of qualifications-based selection (QBS) procedures for A/E contracts. The Brooks Architect-Engineers Act was signed into law in 1972.

Principals, owners, and partners of A/E firms, as well as marketing and business development executives, will get a snapshot view of the upcoming federal market for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services contract awards. Top officials from key federal agencies will present information on program budgets and near-term projects and procurement opportunities.

Past COFPAES sessions have featured the General Services Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Federal Highway Administration, State Department Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. A similar line-up of agencies is being assembled for October 11.

Registration for ASCE members is $195. Registration for non-members is $245.

View the agenda and REGISTER TODAY

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ASCE Needs Your Success Stories for the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure

While the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure showed that there is much work to be done to raise the grades, we know there are countless examples of projects and programs from across the country that demonstrate progress is being made. The 2013 Report Card will feature these “Success Stories” to demonstrate how public and private organizations have addressed specific infrastructure problems with some creativity and determination.

As we develop the 2013 Report Card, we need your help to tell these stories! We would like to identify a diverse set of Success Stories for each of the 16 categories that will be covered in the 2013 Report Card: Aviation, Bridges, Dams, Drinking Water, Energy, Hazardous Waste, Inland Waterways, Levees, Public Parks and Recreation, Rail, Roads, Schools, Solid Waste, Transit, Wastewater, and the new category of Ports.

Projects or programs cited as Success Stories should be those that in some way integrate at least one of ASCE’s Five Key Solutions:

• Increased federal leadership
• Promotion of sustainability and resilience
• Develop federal, regional, and state infrastructure plans
• Address life-cycle costs and ongoing maintenance
• Increase and improve infrastructure investment from all stakeholders

Please use this online form to let us know about Success Stories that we should include in the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Feel free to include photos or web links with your submission. If you have any questions, please contact us at govwash@asce.org

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New Fuel Efficiency Standards Released

The Obama Administration finalized new fuel efficiency standards this week. The new standards are designed to nearly double the miles per gallon that passenger vehicles can drive by 2025. The standards will increase fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 35.5 miles per gallon standards that will be in place for 2016.

Estimates expect that drivers could save as much as $1.7 trillion on gasoline by 2025 due to the tougher standards, meaning Highway Trust Fund revenues will be greatly affected. With drivers buying less gasoline, the purchasing power of the gas tax will take a significant hit. Congress will have to identify new revenue sources for the Highway Trust Fund as fuel efficiency standards are implemented.

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Contact Your Member of Congress This Summer - Only One Week Left

With the clock winding down to the end of the summer recess, time is running out on the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your elected officials. Our country continues to face huge infrastructure needs. Make sure your lawmakers know what these needs are and how not addressing them will affect their constituents and businesses in their home states and districts. The best way to do this is meeting them face-to-face, either at a Town Hall Meeting or other local appearance, or by scheduling a Back Home Visit in their district office.

Members of Congress left Washington on August 3rd for an extended district work period which will also feature the two national party conventions. Congress will reconvene in Washington the week of September 10.

Take advantage of these opportunities to get to know your elected leaders, or to reinforce relationships you have already established. You can do this in a number of ways:
• Back Home Visits.
• Attend local Town Hall Meetings organized by your Representative.
• Tele-Town Halls.
Check local news outlets and lawmakers’ websites for local Town Hall Meetings and other appearances, or contact your lawmaker’s office directly to set up a Back Home Visit.

Visit ASCE’s Back Home Visits briefing webpage at for tips and to download issue briefs to use in your discussions with lawmakers and their staff.

If you meet with your elected officials or their staff, please let ASCE Government Relations know how the discussion went. Send an email to govwash@asce.org or complete the online feedback form here

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State Legislative Updates

Alaska
Alaska voters reject coastal zone measure
A $1.5 million effort against a ballot measure to resurrect a coastal management program in Alaska paid off. With 98 percent of the vote counted in Tuesday's election, nearly two-thirds of voters said no to the initiative. The fierce fight over Ballot Measure 2 was the most expensive campaign in this year's state primary election. More than $1.7 million was raised, all but about $200,000 by the opposition group "Vote No on 2." Oil companies, mining interests and other resource development and industry groups largely bankrolled the effort.
Read more: Anchorage Daily News 8/29 


California
California accelerates toward driverless highway of the future
California on Wednesday could step on the accelerator toward a futuristic highway filled with robot cars as the Legislature considers a bill that would allow driver-less vehicles to hit the road later this decade. If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislation would shift technology being mastered at places like Google and Stanford from test courses to public roads. Since 99 percent of all traffic and fatal accidents are caused by some form of human error or imperfection, supporters envision a world of computer-controlled cars that would zip around quickly and safely.
Read more: Contra Costa Times 8/29 


Delaware
Comments sought on state's transportation projects
The state is seeking public input on a six-year Capital Transportation Pro¬gram at a public hearing in New Castle County from 4-7 p.m. Sept. 5. The hearing will be at WILMAPCO offices, 850 Library Ave., Newark. The Delaware Department of Trans¬portation will have project boards on display, and representatives will be in attendance to discuss various projects in the work plan. The hearings provide an opportuni¬ty to review current and suggested transportation projects. Interested persons also are encour¬aged to submit written comments during the public hearing process.
Read more: Delaware Online 8/30 


Florida
Ocala hoping to become inland port
The city of Ocala will be asking the Florida Department of Transportation for funds to study the feasibility of Ocala becoming an inland port and has approached members of the local legislative delegation asking for its support. The city on Wednesday hosted a tour for the legislators to explain the innovative strides Ocala is making through technology, to showcase its new business incubator as well as its downtown development, and to stress the importance that an inland port could have for Ocala/Marion County’s future economic development. “It will be competitive,” Astrida Trupovnieks, the city’s senior redevelopment manager, said about the FDOT grant.
Read more: Ocala.com 8/29 


Louisiana
39 percent of state without power
The Louisiana Public Service Commission announced that about 39 percent of the state was without electricity Wednesday night. A total of 830,280 of the state’s 2.1 million customers of regulated utility companies were without power as of 6:10 p.m. Wednesday, the last official count of the evening, according to Colby Cook of the PSC staff. Those numbers are expected to grow Thursday as Tropical Storm Isaac moves into central Louisiana, he said.“It looks a lot worse than anticipated,” PSC Commissioner Jimmy Field, of Baton Rouge, said of the damage caused by hurricane then Tropical Storm Isaac.
Read more: The Advocate 8/30 


State officials to breach Plaquemines levee; Obama OKs more aid
Authorities are planning to intentionally breach a levee in Plaquemines Parish on Thursday to relieve flooding from Hurricane Isaac, while in St. John the Baptist Parish 2,000 to 3,000 people were being evacuated because of flooding from Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain, officials said. Farther east on Interstate 10 in New Orleans, Isaac littered the streets with tree limbs Wednesday, but the city’s mayor said the rebuilt levees and floodwalls are “holding.” Meanwhile, 35 people were rescued in Plaquemines Parish and about 800 homes are believed to have significant water damage in that southeast Louisiana parish that has received the brunt of the storm since Tuesday night, Gov. Bobby Jindal said, adding that the storm may not leave the state until Friday.
Read more: The Advocate 8/30 


Michigan
Anti-bridge proposal kept off Michigan ballot, but Moroun-backed group expected to continue fight
A sketch of the proposed New International Trade Crossing previously prepared by the Michigan Department of Transportation. A proposal seeking to block construction of a new Detroit-Windsor bridge is not yet heading to the November ballot, but the ongoing argument likely is heading to court.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Monday voted 2-1 in favor of certification, but the measure was kept off the ballot because it did not receive required bipartisan support.
Read more: MLive 8/27


Minnesota
Minnesota DOT to Open New Highway 14 Friday Night
Just in time for the holiday weekend, the new Highway 14 corridor will be opened. The Minnesota Department of Transportation announcing that the stretch of four-lane road between Waseca and Owatonna will open Friday night at 9:00. Steven Eustice doesn't drive, but even he is looking forward to the opening of Highway 14. Eustice says, "It will be good for me if we could get a little traffic out of town." Eustice knows just how dangerous the traffic can be. He rides his bike everywhere and a recent run in with a car landed him in the hospital. Eustice says, "That is the second time I got hit on that corner." For others it will simply mean that their commute will be less of a hassle.
Read more: KEYC TV Mankato 8/29 


Texas
TxDOT privatizing routine road maintenance
Texas drivers, more of your highway road maintenance is about to get outsourced to the private sector.
The Texas Department of Transportation plans to contract out minor, routine maintenance work on parts of Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Dallas and on Interstate 45 from Dallas to Houston.
The move, officials say, could save the state $120 million over five years.
For years, TxDOT has hired private companies to do major road maintenance and rehabilitation projects. But agency officials decided to cast a wider net after saving money on a pilot project in Houston, in which a private contractor bid the work for $10 million less than what it would have cost TxDOT to complete.
Read more: My San Antonio 8/29


Wyoming
Opinion
Wyo should use unexpected revenue to fix highways
In the old days, there was a word that was used whenever Wyoming would find a new, unexpected pot of money to take care of any shortage in the state budget. That word was “windfall.” Back in the early 1990s, a windfall of millions of dollars from a Jackson woman’s estate helped bail out Wyoming. For a number of years, the state had an uncanny knack of finding unexpected money whenever it needed funds. The last time Wyoming experienced a windfall was in 2008, when most other states were being hit hard by the Great Recession. At the time, we were still seeing higher than expected mineral severance tax revenues from increased natural gas and oil production.
Read more: Casper Star Tribune 8/28 


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