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This Week in Washington - October 12

 

Legislative Fly-In 2013: Save The Date
Are You Registered To Vote?
New Study Released on Upgrading Nation’s Water Infrastructure
New Report Says Infrastructure Supports Economic Growth
Use of Toll Road Revenue Debated
Three Local Report Card Releases Planned For October
Sign Up Today: “Livable Cities of The Future” Symposium
State Legislative Updates


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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Are You Registered To Vote?

There are only 26 days left until the November election, and time is running out in many communities to register to vote. Registering to vote is your first step toward influencing choices made by your elected officials, especially when it comes to issues important to civil engineering. Deadlines vary from state to state, so be sure to check deadlines and get registered. Visit http://www.engineeringthevote.org to find out deadlines and how to register.

In addition, many 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.

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New Study Released On Upgrading Nation’s Water Infrastructure

On October 11th, the Center for American Progress released How to Upgrade and Maintain Our Nation’s Wastewater and Drinking-Water Infrastructure, a new report assessing the needs and solutions for improving these vital infrastructure sectors. The report says “our water systems are the most essential for the daily lives of Americans,” and “due to decades of insufficient or misdirected investment, a significant portion of water distribution and sewer systems are reaching or have already reached the end of their intended operational life and are beginning to fail.”

The report argues for four solutions. First, promote the adoption of more energy-efficient technologies and practices at drinking-water and wastewater facilities. Second, immediately increase allocations to state revolving loan funds. Third, encourage the funds to adopt smarter investment strategies to stretch every dollar further. And lastly, push for lower-cost solutions for water-quality and treatment challenges.

You can read the full report at this link.

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New Report Says Infrastructure Supports Economic Growth

The George Mason Center for Regional Analysis released a new report this week saying that despite increased emphasis on transit and walking/biking infrastructure, the automobile will continue to rule transportation in the Washington region by 2040. Connecting Transportation Investment and the Economy in Metropolitan Washington concluded that about 81 percent of new transportation trips by 2040 will be solo drivers or carpoolers, 13 percent of new trips will be bikers or walkers, and only 6 percent will be via transit.
However, the report did find that the area stands to benefit significantly from investment in its transit infrastructure. The largest gains in will be in Tysons Corner and Reston, Virginia, the primary beneficiaries of Metro’s new Silver Line into Northern Virginia.

The report concludes that “the region’s economic future will continue to rely on significant investments in transportation infrastructure.”

You can read the new report here.

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Use Of Toll Road Revenue Debated

On October 8th, the New York Times asked in their Room for Debate forum, “You Pay the Toll. Where Should That Money Go?” The forum allows experts from across the political spectrum to discuss the issues of the moment. Contributors to this debate included former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Economic Development Policy Analyst Sam Staley, and CW Marsella, a transportation consultant.

In his piece, Governor Rendell argued “public transportation is so important to our nation's economy that it must be the recipient of its own dedicated funding.” CW Marsella asserted “transit policy and investment is critical to developing our nation, and the most cost effective and timely approach is for government to coordinate with construction, financing, planning, engineering and other industries.”

The debate was an interesting discussion on the role of dedicated funding and the value of transportation projects in general. To read the pieces and join the discussion, please visit the New York Times’ website.

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Three Local Report Card Releases Planned For October

In the next two weeks, ASCE Sections and Branches in Colorado, California and Florida will be releasing three new local report cards. The Southern Colorado Branch of ASCE will release its 2012 Infrastructure Report Card for the Colorado Springs Area on Wednesday, October 17th. This local report card will focus on Colorado Springs in relation to the state of Colorado, and argue for new solutions to jump-starting the area’s economy.

One week later, both the Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch and the Florida Section will release their respective report cards on Wednesday, October 24. The L.A. report card will be released during a media event to be held on the steps of city hall. The Florida report card will be released at a press conference overlooking the Miami International Airport.

Please look for releases of each new report card on our Facebook page, Twitter, or at www.asce.org/govrel

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Sign Up Today: “Livable Cities Of The Future” Symposium

Plan to attend “Livable Cities of the Future”, to be held on the downtown Brooklyn Campus of Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) on Friday, October 26, 2012. The forum will honor Dr. George Bugliarello (1927-2011), NYU-Poly president, scholar and engineering polymath who inspired innovation in sustainable cities. ASCE is a non-financial co-sponsor.

This symposium will bring together an interdisciplinary group of engineers, civic leaders, educators and futurists, addressing innovative urban planning for the cities of tomorrow.

Further information and registration, please visit here.

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State Legislative Updates

Arkansas
Darr announces support for highway tax
Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr announced his support Tuesday for a proposed constitutional amendment for a temporary one-half cent sales tax increase to finance a $1.8 billion bond issue to build a four-lane highway system connecting all corners of the state. “No one hates taxes more than me; however, one of the primary functions of government is to build roads and infrastructure and this act does just that,” Darr said in a statement released by his office. Under the measure on the November 6 general ballot, highway construction would focus primary on creating a statewide four-lane grid and adding capacity to existing four-lane highways. The sales tax would last 10 years.
Read More: Arkansas News 10/9


Georgia
Op-Ed
Failure of T-SPLOST Spurs New Policies in Transportation Funding
There are some 20,000 miles of federal and state highways in Georgia – the interstate system and major roads that link our cities one to the other; carry our commuters to and from employment centers and give structure to our thriving logistics industry and interstate commerce. There are another 100,000 or so miles of city streets and county roads – streets or rural routes we live on that carry us to the neighborhood grocery store, to church, dentists and doctors; that take our children to and from school and become veritable appendages of daily life. The former are the responsibility of the Georgia Department of Transportation; the latter of their respective county or city governments. Both are hugely expensive to grow and maintain.
Read More: Monroe Patch 10/5


Idaho
Idaho Transportation Department Saves $40 Million through Innovative Bond Repayment Plan
The Idaho Transportation Department has come up with a way to repay Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) bonds while also saving the department $40 million. Six of ITD's GARVEE bonds are being repaid through a level-pay plan. However, as new bonds were added, the total amount being paid "increased for the life of the program." ITD said that using that approach for the next two bonds would increase the loan payment for the total GARVEE program to about $56 million each year through 2031. However, ITD found that, by paying about $3 million more (or $59 million per year), $40 million in mounting interest would be saved and the final two loan payments would be less than $10 million each. By doing this, the state could issue these bonds at an interest rate of around 3.3 to 3.6 percent.
Read More: AASHTO Journal 10/5


Iowa
Latham, Boswell disagree on need to raise gas tax
Lawmakers must consider an increase in the federal gas tax to keep up with the country’s infrastructure needs, U.S. Representative Leonard Boswell said Wednesday in a debate with 3rd District rival U.S. Representative Tom Latham. The comment came in the context of a discussion about stimulus spending to spark economic growth, and was quickly rebutted by Latham, who said no taxes should be raised in the current economic climate.
Read More: Des Moines Register 10/11


Maryland
Montgomery County Council President Wants County Gas Tax
A Montgomery County lawmaker says the county should have the ability to impose its own gas tax.
The county tax would help fund transportation projects, including the Purple Line, County Council President Roger Berliner said. Berliner proposed the idea after the governor's attempt to raise the state gas tax failed. He said state lawmakers most likely will not raise the state's gas tax anytime soon in the face of rising gas prices. He said one of the advantages of a county tax is that the county gets to keep all of the revenue.
Read More: NBC Washington 10/9


New Hampshire
'Micro-resurfacing' touted by DOT officials in Marlborough
State Department of Transportation officials celebrated the completion of a “micro-resurfacing” of a stretch of Route 12 Friday morning and took the opportunity to talk up the repaving technique that should save the department millions in road reconstruction costs. The “micro-surfacing” pavement on 4½ miles of Route 12 in Swanzey, Troy and Marlborough costs far less than a full reconstruction of the roadway and has a smaller environmental impact, said Eric Thibodeau, DOT pavement management chief.
Read More: Union Leader 10/8

Opinion
Good Roads are Worth the Investment
There are plenty of things government does that serious-minded people can disagree over. Do we need to finance public television? After years of saying yes, last year the Legislature said no. Does the state have an obligation to local schools? New Hampshire politicians have been arguing about this one since the dawn of time. But hardly anyone would disagree that a basic function of government is keeping our roads and bridges safe. That's why it was so heartening to hear Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement speak a simple truth to the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce last week: New Hampshire's infrastructure needs help - badly - and an increase in the gas tax would provide the revenue to make that happen.
Read More: Concord Monitor 10/9


New Jersey
Senate Dems fail to override Christie's veto of Port Authority transparency bill
The state Senate today failed to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a measure intended to impose more oversight over the sprawling Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Democrats, who hold a 24-16 seat advantage in the Senate, needed 27 votes — or a two-thirds majority of the chamber — to override Christie’s veto, but managed to collect only 22 votes. Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen), who sponsored the legislation, said it was "very disappointing" that no Republicans voted for the override, which he blamed on "heat from the governor’s office."
Read More: Star-Ledger 10/4


New York
New York State Parks Use Infusion of Money Toward Backlog of Repairs
long the roads past lakes and campgrounds here, workers have been busy laying down fresh asphalt. Near Lake Cohasset, aging sewer lines are being replaced. Soon, dozens of frayed cabins that house disadvantaged children in the summer will receive makeovers, including new roofs. The construction in Harriman is part of a push to address the backlog of deferred maintenance and infrastructure projects across New York’s state parks, which last spring received an infusion of $89 million from the governor and the Legislature for capital improvements. Adding private grants and federal funds, the total investment will be $143 million — the largest single allocation of capital money in the history of the park system.
Read More: NY Times 10/11


Ohio
Governor John Kasich turns on the turnpike
Governor John Kasich wants staunch supporters of the Ohio Turnpike to hold their fire in opposing any plan to lease the turnpike or leverage its toll revenue. Consultants could deliver recommendations on the turnpike's future as soon as next month. But Kasich had no problem unleashing his own blasts at the toll road, after a news conference in Detroit-Shoreway on Thursday. Kasich said maintenance of the turnpike "is not good."
Read More: Cleveland.com 10/8


Texas
Texas negotiates $1.6 billion deal to expand I-35W - most congested road in state
The Texas Department of Transportation has reached a tentative, $1.6 billion deal with a private developer to expand Interstate 35W in north Fort Worth. The work is expected to begin in mid-2013 and be completed by mid-2018. The stretch of I-35W in northern Tarrant County is the most congested roadway in the state, according to a report released by the state transportation department in late August.
Read More: Star-Telegram 10/10

Despite Rain, West Texas Water Woes Continue
With its pretty rivers and lakes, this city of 95,000 people is sometimes called the oasis of West Texas. But San Angelo recently came within a year of running out of water, as it faced a severe drought that produced brown lawns, dying bushes — and fear. What a difference a few days makes. Last weekend, the heavens opened, and it poured. More than five inches of rain fell on San Angelo. But the drought in West Texas is not over, and experts say the perennially dry region must plan carefully. The two-year drought, the region’s worst in more than half a century, has starkly exposed its vulnerability. Pressure is growing on the Legislature to address the problem when it meets next year, especially because the population continues to grow and West Texas is projected to become drier.
Read More: Texas Tribune 10/7
http://www.texastribune.org/texas-environmental-news/water-supply/despite-rain-west-texas-water-woes-continue/


Wyoming
Salazar approves massive Wyoming wind farm project
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday authorized what he described as potentially the largest wind energy project in the United States, if not the world: A Wyoming wind farm with up to 1,000 turbines that would provide electricity to some 1 million homes. Roadwork and groundwork could begin next year for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. After that, turbines could go up over a three-year period within an area covering 350 square miles of the hilly sagebrush country south of Rawlins in south-central Wyoming.
Read More: MSNBC 10/9

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