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This Week in Washington - November 2


Are You Ready to Vote?
MAP-21 Could Speed Up Post Sandy Construction
Sign Up for “2012 Elections: What Next for Civil Engineering?"
Brookings Looks at International Aviation
Legislative Fly-In 2013: Save The Date
State Legislative Updates

 

Are You Ready To Vote?

Election Day is just 5 days away – be sure you are prepared for this important civic duty:
 
• Are you registered? Many state registration deadlines have passed, but some do allow Election Day registration. If you’re not sure about the date in your state, check it at http://www.engineeringthevote.org.
• Many states require identification to vote so be sure you bring the necessary documents with you on Election Day. In addition, some states and communities are now offering early voting to accommodate voters’ busy schedules. Consider taking advantage of this convenience to ensure your voice is heard.
• Familiarize yourself with candidates and issues on the ballot before you go to vote. Check out our personalized Election guide here. Also, see information on state ballot initiatives relating to civil engineering issues.

ASCE and 14 other organizations in the STEM fields partnered with Science Debate to formulate questions posed to the major presidential candidates aimed at raising the profile of science and engineering issues during the campaign. The Obama and Romney campaigns both responded to the questionnaire, and their answers can be found here. A smaller set of questions were posed to Congressional candidates and their responses can be found here.

Science Debate is a non-profit organization dedicated to “elevating science and engineering policy issues in the national dialogue of the United States”. ASCE was one of several scientific and engineering organizations recruited to help Science Debate formulate questions to further the conversation and spur the debate on the proper role of science in our society.

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MAP-21 Could Speed Up Post Sandy Construction

While Hurricane Sandy has millions in New York and New Jersey devastated, there is one bit of good news from Washington as we look toward rebuilding. The surface transportation authorization that was signed into law this past summer, MAP-21, included a blanket exemption from all reviews, approvals, licensing or permitting for any roads or bridges being rebuilt after a weather-related disaster or other emergency.

House Republicans insisted on the provision as part of their effort to streamline the review processes for transportation projects, largely by allowing concurrent reviews by various federal agencies, but also by eliminating reviews where possible. ASCE also actively supported the need for concurrent reviews during the environmental process, which is included in ASCE Policy Statement 427, Regulatory Process for Infrastructure Development.

Aside from the disaster reconstruction projects, exemptions are also granted for projects that use less than $5 million worth of federal funding and for projects that will be constructed within the existing rights-of-way. Fines will be imposed on those agencies that do not adhere to the expedited deadlines.

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Sign Up Today For “2012 Elections: What Next For Civil Engineering?”

Join ASCE staff for “2012 Elections: What Next for Civil Engineering?” the next installment of the Key Contact Briefing Conference Call series. We will explore the outcomes of the November 2012 elections and what they will mean for civil engineers. We will cover the presidential and congressional elections, as well as highlights from states and localities (ballot referenda). In addition, we will touch on anticipated priorities for January 2013, and how ASCE Government Relations will be working to promote civil engineering priorities.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
11am EST
To register for the 2012 Elections briefing call, click here.


The call is an exclusive benefit of the ASCE Key Contact Program. Non-Key Contacts are invited to join the program – simply register for the call and you will be added!

The Key Contact Briefing Conference Call series is designed to provide ASCE Key Contacts with exclusive insights and updates on key public policy issues affecting the civil engineering profession. Our last call, held in May 2012, provided an update on transportation authorization legislation. Calls are held on a quarterly basis.

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Brookings Looks At International Aviation

The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released a report this week on aviation in the United States. The report, “Global Gateways: International Aviation in Metropolitan America” reveals that the US can expect international air travel to continue to play a pivotal role in global trade. Unfortunately, the report also found that current federal and local investment policies do not reflect the travel concentrations in our busiest airports, nor do current regulations maximize international passenger levels. In order to support global trade, US policies will have to refocus support on key international gateways.

The Brookings report comes shortly after ASCE released a report on the impact that our nation’s airports, marine ports, and inland waterways ports play in a global economy. ASCE’s Failure to Act study found that costs attributable to airport congestion will rise from $24 billion in 2012 to $34 billion in 2020. However, with an additional investment of a total of $18.9 billion by 2020, plus the development of NextGen, the U.S. can protect:

• $54 billion in exports
• $313 billion in GDP
• 350,000 jobs
• $361 billion in personal income, or $320 per year for households.

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Legislative Fly-In 2013: Save The Date

It’s that time of year again! Mark your calendars for March 19-21, ASCE’s 2013 Legislative Fly-In in Washington, DC. Details, including schedule and application information, will be available on ASCE’s website later this month and the application deadline will be December 7th.

The Legislative Fly-In provides ASCE members with the opportunity to learn about public policy issues affecting the civil engineering profession, and to communicate the civil engineer’s perspective on those issues with elected officials on Capitol Hill. Fly-In attendees will be the first to introduce the new and highly anticipated 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure to their elected officials.

View pictures and information from the 2012 Legislative Fly-In.

Help us reach our 2013 goal of having all 50 states represented!

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State Legislative Updates

ASCE is monitoring the gubernatorial elections that will be held in 11 states (Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia) on November 6. Also, more than 6,000 state legislative seats are up for grabs in 44 states.

Issues such as Medicaid and Voter ID have driven much of the political talk during this election season and the statehouse results will determine which party controls each of the nation's legislatures when they convene in 2013. An additional preview of the state elections is available here from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).


Alaska
Alaska voters to decide on $453 million in transportation bonds on November 6
Alaska voters are being asked whether to spend money to build the first leg of a multi-billion dollar road to Nome, to chip in for moving a western Alaska village, help pay for a rail link to the port at Point MacKenzie and contribute another $50 million to the Anchorage port expansion. Proposition A on the November 6 general election ballot would let the state go into debt for another $453.5 million in construction projects, including these. The 2012 Legislature approved $2.9 billion in outright spending on capital projects of all sorts -- schools, roads, parks, university buildings -- for communities across the state. On top of that, the Legislature voted to put one big general obligation bond proposition that mostly consists of roads, ports and harbors on the November ballot to let voters decide on additional spending.
Read More: Alaska Daily News 10/30

Arkansas
Supporters say road tax would fund most needed projects
Many of the projects on a newly released list of the state’s most needed road improvements would be completed within a decade if voters approve a proposed temporary half-cent sales tax increase to fund a $1.8 billion highway construction program, supporters said Tuesday. The proposal is encompassed in Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that appears on the ballot for Tuesday’s general election. Early voting began Oct. 22 and ends Monday. Construction under the bond program would focus primarily on creating a statewide four-lane grid and adding capacity to existing four-lane highways.
Read More: Arkansas News 10/30
*Editor’s Note* ASCE members in Arkansas have received a Key Alert urging their support of this measure.

Georgia
Savannah port to get more deepening money, governor says
Governor Nathan Deal said Tuesday he’ll likely recommend another $40 million to $50 million in state spending to deepen the Savannah River and harbor, the state’s major port and economic-development engine. Last week the federal government gave final regulatory approval to deepen the river to 47 feet, from its current 42 feet, at a cost of $652 million. Georgia has already put up $181 million for its cost-share portion of the deepening tab, including $47 million last year. Deal, during a brief interview following the annual State of the Ports luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, said he’ll probably request a similar amount from the General Assembly come January.
Read More: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Maine
Opinion
Transportation bond vital for Maine commerce
Question 4: Do you favor a $51,500,000 bond issue for improvements to highways and bridges, local roads, airports and port facilities, as well as for funds for rail access, transit buses and the LifeFlight Foundation, which will make the state eligible for at least $105,600,000 in federal and other matching funds?
Saying yes to Question 4 will help not just improve infrastructure linking Maine businesses but better connect Maine to the global marketplace. The majority of the funds — $41 million — would go toward repairing roads and bridges deemed vital to business interests and public safety and would make the state eligible for $72 million in matching federal funds.
Read More: Bangor Daily News 10/29
*Editor’s Note* ASCE members in Maine have received a Key Alert urging their support of this measure.

New Mexico
Governor names Transportation Commission member
Governor Susana Martinez has named a businessman from southeastern New Mexico to a commission that oversees the state Department of Transportation. Robert Wallach of Hobbs fills a vacancy on the six-member state Transportation Commission, which sets policies for the department. The 56-year-old Wallach runs a family-owned concrete business and also owns a ranch. Wallach is a former member of the Hobbs City Commission.
Read More: Santa Fe New Mexican 10/29

Utah
Utah's thirst for water comes with $13.7 billion price tag
The ability to turn on the tap, flush the toilet and water the garden over the next 20 years will be a multibillion-dollar challenge in Utah because of new water and sewer systems that state officials say must be put in place. A statewide list of water projects, including their costs, is being shopped to Utah lawmakers, along with the warning that it is better to plan now and pay now, rather than wait until dams fail or taps run dry. The numbers are staggering, adding up to $13.7 billion. And that doesn't include billions identified for controversial projects such as the Lake Powell Pipeline or the Bear River Development project.
Read More: Deseret News 10/26

Virginia
Beltway express lanes to open before Thanksgiving, operators say
The 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway between Springfield and the Dulles Toll Road area could open as early as Nov. 17, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation and the lane operators. The operators said recently they expected the opening would come in the middle of a weekend, though until Wednesday, they weren’t prepared to say which weekend that would be. If the schedule holds, most commuters’ first experience with the new lanes would be on Monday, November 19. There will be no free get-acquainted period as there was when Maryland’s Intercounty Connector opened. As soon as these four new lanes in the middle of the Beltway open, they will operate as designed: Cars will need E-ZPass transponders. Drivers who have at least three people aboard and have the new-style transponder called an E-ZPass Flex can set the Flex to carpool mode and get a free ride. Other drivers will pay a toll that varies with the level of traffic congestion.
Read More: Washington Post 10/31

West Virginia
Budget cuts may hit public transportation
Looming state budget cuts could reduce funding for state public transportation by up to 15 percent, officials said. The director of the state Division of Public Transit said local organizations would likely cut services and lay off workers should the state follow through with plans to cut the division's budget 7.5 percent. Thirty-three counties across the state have some sort of public transportation program. Public Transit Director Susan O'Connell told state budget officials if the state cut funding, it is unlikely local governments would step up to fill the gaps.
Read More: Charleston Daily Mail 10/30

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