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This Week in Washington - July 13

CBO Examines a National Infrastructure Bank
What’s Next for Transportation & Infrastructure?
Visit with Your Representative in August
High Speed Rail Survey Released
Limited Federal Funds Delay Bureau of Reclamation Projects in West up to 50 Years
ASCE Needs Your Success Stories for the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
State Legislative News 

CBO Examines a National Infrastructure Bank

The Congressional Budget Office released a report this week analyzing a national transportation infrastructure bank, which is a proposal that many on Capitol Hill would like to use in order to boost funding and improve the selection process for projects. The report finds that an infrastructure bank could play a limited role in enhancing investment in surface transportation projects, but that is could create a selection process that would overcome certain barriers to the financing of multi-regional or multimodal projects.

The bank would provide financing through loans, and projects would have to include tolls, taxes or other dedicated revenue streams when repaying them. Private and NGO partners, as well as state and local entities, could apply. While this would assist with funding, the report said, only a select number of projects could qualify. Read more here.

Senator Kerry (D-MA)introduced the BUILD Act, S. 652, last year, which is a broader infrastructure bank focusing also on water and energy projects. ASCE has endorsed the legislation. In the House Representative DeLauro (D-CT) has also introduced a version of the infrastructure bank with H.R. 402, the National Infrastructure Development Act.

ASCE Policy Statement 532 supports the creation and operation of a national infrastructure bank that can fund transportation, environment, energy, and telecommunications projects of significance. ASCE Key Contacts should write their elected officials in support of these bills to create a national infrastructure bank.

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What's Next for Transportation & Infrastructure?

After enacting multi-year reauthorizations for both aviation and surface transportation programs, and with the November elections looming, conventional wisdom would say not to expect much action out of Congress on transportation and infrastructure policy. However, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) is committed to pursuing rail policy, left out of the recent MAP-21 legislation due to differences with the Senate, and hopes to hold hearings in the coming months.

On the Senate side, Environment and Public Works Committee leaders are less optimistic about progress on rail legislation, citing the differences with the House.

ASCE would like to see the committees work on legislation to reauthorize the Dam Safety Act, which expired in September 2011, and bipartisan bills have been introduced in both houses. In addition, we will push for reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which expired in September 2009. As we work with Congressional staff on these priorities, as well as annual appropriations for civil engineering priorities, we will keep Key Contacts informed of any activity.

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Visit With Your Representative in August

Members of Congress will spend a large part of August in their home districts and the time to plan for your August Back Home Visit with your lawmaker is now. View the 2012 Congressional Calendar for dates (subject to change).

ASCE's Key Contact Program is ready to provide you with guidance to make the most of your Back Home Visit or Town Hall Meeting attendance this August.

Visit ASCE's Back Home Visit briefing to get tips on making an appointment or finding a Town Hall Meeting near you.

If you have further questions regarding Back Home Visits, contact ASCE Government Relations at

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High Speed Rail Survey Released

The American Public Transportation Association released a survey this week showing that about 62 percent of Americans said they would use potential high-speed train services between metro areas in the United States. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they would be “very likely” to use fast trains, 27 percent said “likely,” and a combined 38 percent said they were “not very likely” or “not at all likely.” A majority of those polled also expressed the importance that such trains be more economical than driving and flying. Fifty-five percent said it was important that high-speed rail offer quicker trips than flying, and 47 percent said it was important the trains were faster than driving.

The survey comes at a time when high speed rail remains a hot topic in Washington DC, as well as in state and local governments. Just last week the state of California voted to approve funding for the nation's first dedicated high-speed rail line, with construction slated to begin as early as late 2012.

The survey finding can be seen here.

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Limited Federal Funds Delay Bureau of Reclamation Projects in West Up to 50 Years 

Limited congressional appropriations in recent years have slowed progress on the completion of rural water supply projects in the West, the Bureau of Reclamation said in a report to Congress this week.

Between 1980 and 2007, Congress directed the Bureau of Reclamation to undertake 11 specific rural water supply projects. Of those eleven, four have been completed. The four finished projects took seven, eight, 12, and 15 years to complete, respectively.

If Congress provides an annual appropriation of about $162 million for each of the remaining seven projects, they could be completed by 2029 at a cost of approximately $3 billion, the Bureau’s report said.

But the Bureau warned that the costs could double over 50 years to $4 billion. Congress has authorized $2 billion for the 11 projects over the years.

“At the current funding level of approximately $50 million for construction, progress and without additional non-federal funding, progress would be made toward project completion, but some of the currently authorized projects would be completed much later, perhaps not until well after 2063 despite close to $4 billion being invested by that time. It is estimated that as of 2063, an outstanding balance of approximately $1.1 billion would remain to complete construction of currently authorized projects,” the report added.

“Each of the Acts of Congress authorizing Reclamation’s involvement in these rural water supply projects requires that the cost ceilings included in the legislation be indexed to adjust for inflation that includes the rising cost of materials and labor, which was estimated to be 4 percent annually,” the Bureau said. “The result of this requirement is that the overall cost of rural water projects that are under construction has risen and continues to rise, and the total funding required to complete these projects is now $2.6 billion, which is substantially higher than the original authorizations, which totaled $2 billion.”

The Bureau of Reclamation report can be read here

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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 Aaron Castelo at

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 State Legislative News

California’s bullet train faces new challenges after funding approval
As California secures the riches needed to start building a high-speed rail line, some longtime bitter foes of the bullet train are beginning to back off -- yet from the courtroom to the boardroom, other opponents are preparing for one last shot at blocking the historic project. The hoopla over the Legislature's dramatic approval Friday of Gov. Jerry Brown's $8 billion plan to begin building the $69 billion bullet train is now giving way to many less-scintillating challenges remaining before the state can break ground in the Central Valley early next year. "The legislative aspect is over, we lost that round. So now it's going to be the litigated phase," said state Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, who led the charge against the project in the Senate. "I don't think there's a complete 'give-up' view yet out there, but it does look tougher."
Read More: Mercury News 7/10

Governor Jerry Brown signs bill removing water bond from November ballot
With his signature, Governor Jerry Brown on Monday pulled an $11-billion water bond measure from the November ballot, delaying it until the 2014 election. The governor signed legislation introduced by supporters who worried that a separate ballot measure by Brown that would raise taxes might be jeopardized if it was on the same ballot as a massive water bond. AB 1422 was one of 24 bills signed Monday by the governor. He also approved a measure banning non-elected public employees convicted of corruption charges, including bribery and theft of public funds, from taking a government job for five years.
Read More: LA Times 7/9

Governor Pat Quinn OKs $1.6 billion in transportation work
Governor Pat Quinn on Tuesday signed a bill that will authorize the Illinois Department of Transportation to go forward with $1.6 billion worth of road, rail and transit projects statewide. An additional $93.8 million was announced for road and bridge projects in Chicago, which will allow nearly 100 miles of Chicago streets to be resurfaced. The bill funds the second phase of the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, which created a pool of funding for transportation projects in 2009. “Today’s law ensures that Illinois will continue moving forward,” Quinn said. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stood beside the governor near one of Bellwood’s most dangerous intersections on 25th Avenue near Grant Street. The area will get $36.2 million for a project to separate the road from railroad.
Read More: Chicago Sun-Times 7/10

A top Georgia Republican lawmaker takes stand against T-SPLOST
Georgia Republican State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock is not convinced the entire list of projects for Metro Atlanta in the T-SPLOST package will make a big difference in road congestion and on Monday urged metro Atlantans to vote down the measure when they go to the polls July 31, reports WABE. Voters will decide if they want to pay a one percent sales tax to fund numerous transportation projects. The plan calls for Metro Atlanta to collect the tax for 10 years. During that time the tax is expected to generate about $8 billion. Rogers argues that some projects will cost more than their estimated price tags due to operations and maintenance costs, WABE reported.
Read More: Atlanta Business Chronicle
**Editor’s Note**
The Georgia Section of ASCE is IN FAVOR of T-SPLOST. For more information please visit our website
ASCE members in Georgia should also be on the lookout for a Key Alert being sent out in the weeks prior to the election.

Kansas legislators get kudos for transportation work
Economic Lifelines on Monday honored several legislators for their support of state transportation funding. “Transportation is critical to the economic future of communities like Lawrence and Topeka, which is why having the support and leadership of these legislators in the Statehouse is so important,” said Julie Lorenz, chief executive of Economic Lifelines, a coalition that pushed for development of the state’s comprehensive transportation plan. The legislators were honored for voting for funding of the transportation plan and against efforts to take funding away from it.
Read More: Lawrence Journal World 7/9

True cost of Dig Dig exceeds $24 billion with interest, officials determine
As construction wound down on the Big Dig nearly a decade ago, officials disclosed that the cost of the highway megaproject had escalated to nearly $15 billion. Now, for the first time publicly, state administrators have tallied the full cost of the work -- principal and interest, plus legally obligated transit commitments -- and it is some $10 billion higher. The highway-tunnel work cost $14.5 billion, with the state using $7 billion in federal aid and borrowing the rest. Add interest and the total figure shouldered by state and federal taxes and tolls will be $21 billion by the time the final bond is paid off in 2038, Dana Levenson, chief financial officer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, told a legislative committee Tuesday.
Read More: Boston Globe 7/10

New Hampshire
Seabrook concrete remains an issue
Members of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards’ License Renewal Subcommittee referred to Seabrook’s renewal application as a work in progress after a four-hour meeting Tuesday. Both NextEra Energy, the owner and operator of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, and staff members with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission presented information about safety concerns and how they are being addressed. In its presentation, NextEra said the micro-cracks due to alkali-silica reaction (ASR) on concrete structures at Seabrook Station is understood and manageable. But NRC staff members said they do not feel the plant has done enough to address ASR issues in the containment area, or in the 19 other structures at Seabrook affected by ASR.
Read More: Union Leader 7/11

New York
Cuomo warns against stopping progress on Tappan Zee
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday urged dissenters of the new Tappan Zee Bridge to not stand in the way of getting the bridge built, saying controversy over design of the bridge could stall its construction. Cuomo said people can have disagreement, but they shouldn’t seek to halt the $5 billion bridge. “The question is do you allow the opposition and the controversy to defeat the project or not?” Cuomo said on WGDJ-AM (1300) in Albany, “because if controversy always wins, we build nothing.” Cuomo was responding to concerns by local leaders in the Hudson Valley that the new bridge between Rockland and Westchester counties should be equipped with rapid transit for buses and rail service.
Read More: Democrat and Chronicle 7/9

Rhode Island
Providence mayor proposes borrowing $40 million to fix streets
Mayor Angel Taveras, who was warning that the city was close to bankruptcy four months ago, now wants to borrow $40 million to repave 62 miles of streets and make other infrastructure improvements. That mileage represents about 15 percent of the city-maintained streets, according to Michael Raia, Taveras' director of communications.
Read More: Providence Journal 7/11

Texas Seeks New Water Supplies amid Drought
The punishing seven-year drought of the 1950s in Texas brought about the modern era of water planning. But the drought of 2011 was the hottest, driest 12 months on record there. Though only a handful of towns saw their water sources dry up last summer, it got so bad that cities, industries and farmers began to think the unthinkable: Would they run out of water? With the state's population expected to double by 2060, Texas must begin an expensive and politically charged search for new water sources. No other reservoir in Texas better symbolizes the state's competing demands for water than Lake Travis, nestled in the juniper-covered hills west of Austin. Marina owners, a nuclear power plant, computer chip makers, rice farmers and the booming city of Austin all depend on Lake Travis and its upstream cousin, Lake Buchanan, for their existence. Last summer, Lake Travis was nearly two-thirds empty. Today, the drought persists, and the lake is only half full.
Read More: 7/8

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