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This Week in Washington - October 19


ASCE and TRIP: New Data Shows Poor Infrastructure Hinders Ohio’s Economy
ASCE Section Releases New Infrastructure Report Card For Colorado Springs
Clean Water Act Turns 40 This Week
Congressional Auditors Cite ‘Fragmented’ Federal Aid for Rural Water Projects
U.S. EPA Releases Water Quality Location-Based Application
Legislative Fly-In 2013: Save The Date
Are You Registered To Vote?
State Legislative Updates

 

ASCE and TRIP: New Data Shows Poor Infrastructure Hinders Ohio’s Economy

As part of ASCE's ongoing efforts to increase the discussion about infrastructure at all levels of government, ASCE worked with TRIP - a national transportation research group--on new state-level analysis that shows the condition of the surface transportation infrastructure in Ohio is worsening, and drivers and businesses continue to feel the impact in their pocketbook.

Forty-five percent of Ohio’s major urban highways are congested, and 42 percent of Ohio’s major urban roads are in poor or mediocre condition. In addition, the data also showed that 24 percent of Ohio’s bridges (6,381) are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

"Failing to invest in Ohio's roads, bridges and transit systems has a dramatic negative impact on the state and national economy," said Andrew W. Herrmann, P.E., president of ASCE. "This data underscores the need for state and national policymakers to make smart, long-term investments in infrastructure."

The information can be found here.

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ASCE Section Releases Infrastructure Report Card For Colorado Springs

The Southern Colorado Branch of ASCE released the Infrastructure Report Card for the Colorado Springs Area this past Wednesday, issuing grades ranging from a B for wastewater to a D- for the city’s crumbling stormwater system. The Report Card grades were announced at a news conference adjacent to the Mirage Channel, a recently failed stormwater structure near Rampart High School. To read the Report Card, please go to www.asce-scbranch.org.

Colorado Springs receives low marks for infrastructure
Denver Business Journal
The grades come from the southern Colorado branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which spent 14 months on the project. The society gave the lowest grade -- a D-minus-- to the city for its stormwater system. Colorado Springs' roads were ...

Engineers grade Colorado Springs' infrastructure
KRDO
The southern Colorado branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers released the grades on Wednesday. It's the first time the organization has created a report card for the city. The national Society announced grades for 2008 and for the nation in 2009.

Is our infrastructure making the grade?
KXRM
Our city's aging infrastructure combined with a lack of funding means a blown out concrete channel located near Union and Lexington has been cracked and crumbling for more than four months. "Not only did we put the ...

Noted: Outsiders' view of downtown
Colorado Springs Independent
As a public service, the American Society of Civil Engineers has issued a "2012 Infrastructure Report Card" for Colorado Springs — and it ain't pretty. While the city gets a B- for drinking water infrastructure and a B for wastewater, two services ...

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Clean Water Act Turns 40 This Week

The Clean Water Act, landmark legislation that established many of the modern regulations intended to protect water quality, turned 40 years old on Wednesday. The impetus for the bill, enacted in 1972, was an incident in 1969 where the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire due to the high level of pollutants found in its waters.

On Wednesday, ASCE President-Elect Greg DiLoreto wrote an Op-Ed in The Hill marking the passage of the Clean Water Act and the importance of current standards in water quality and the need to invest in infrastructure aimed at improving sustainability.

To read the Op-Ed, click here.

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Congressional Auditors Cite ‘Fragmented’ Federal Aid For Rural Water Projects

Funding for rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is fragmented across three federal programs, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported this week.

The fragmentation leads “to program overlap and possible duplication of effort when communities apply for funding from these programs,” the GAO concluded.

The purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Water and Waste Disposal program partly coincide to fund projects in rural communities with populations of 10,000 or less.

“For the 54 projects GAO reviewed in the five states it visited, this overlap did not result in duplicate funding, that is funding for the same activities on the same projects,” the auditors explained. “GAO identified the potential for communities to complete duplicate funding applications and related documents when applying for funding from both agencies. In particular, some communities have to prepare preliminary engineering reports and environmental analyses for each program.”

GAO's analysis showed--and community officials and their consulting engineers confirmed--that these reports usually contain similar information but have different formats and levels of detail. Completing separate engineering reports and environmental analyses is duplicative and can result in delays and increased costs to communities applying to both programs.

See the complete report here.

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U.S. Epa Releases Water Quality Location-Based Application

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched a new website application that will allow users to obtain information on the water quality of lakes, rivers, and streams in the United States. The new application, which can be accessed on smartphones and computers, uses an individual’s GPS location to identify nearby water sources.

“America’s lakes, streams and rivers are national treasures. Communities and neighborhoods across the U.S. want to know that their local lakes, rivers and streams are healthy and safe to enjoy with their families,” said Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “People can get this information whether researching at a desktop or standing streamside looking at a smart phone.”

You can use the application here.

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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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Are You Registered To Vote?

There are only 19 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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State Legislative Updates

ALEC Cites Failure to Act Studies
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) this week cited ASCE’s “Failure to Act” studies in an online article about public – private partnerships. The ALEC article can be read here.


California
Tenuous water supply shrinks this year at Valley wildlife refuges
At the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge near Yuba City, wetlands that should be teeming with mallards, canvasbacks, geese and pelicans are instead parched and barren. The refuge, established in 1945, is normally able to flood its 21 wetland tracts by early October. They provide food and shelter for millions of birds that migrate across the globe, using California's Central Valley as a vital stop along the Pacific Flyway. This year, 80 percent of the Sutter refuge remains dry. That means about 2,000 acres of potential habitat is nearly empty of bird life. Ponds normally busy with squawking ducks and geese are dried to a crisp in the October sun.
Read More: Sacramento Bee 10/15


Louisiana
Jindal backs state’s sale of $325 million in rural road bonds
In a change of strategy, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration late Wednesday endorsed the sale of all $325 million in rural road bonds at the same time. The plan, which emanated from a bill pushed by Jindal earlier this year, called for the state to sell $100 million in the first two years and $125 million in the third year. But Sherri LeBas, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said late Wednesday that the new plan stems from the advice of the state’s bond counsel and financial adviser. “They came back and said even if you let the projects over a three-year period it is better, more financially sound, to go ahead and bond all of the money out up front,” LeBas said.
Read More: The Advocate 10/18


Maine
Bond money would speed road work, upgrade ports
If voters approve the Question 4 bond request on the Nov. 6 ballot, the state’s planned road and bridge work will benefit from an injection of money, resulting in more work being completed, according to Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot. Most of the $51.5 million that would be borrowed if the referendum passes — $41 million — will be applied to the Department of Transportation’s list of projects. That money would become available for work in 2014, Talbot said. A smaller amount of money in the bond will be used to improve ports at Searsport and Eastport.
Read More: Bangor Daily News 10/13


Maryland
Large harbor floating wetland project stirs debate
If a little green might help restore Baltimore's ailing harbor, how can a lot be bad? That's the question city, state and federal officials are pondering as they weigh a local marina magnate's plan to fill an unused corner of the Inner Harbor with a large floating marsh. Inspired by a pair of pint-sized experimental wetlands placed in the harbor two years ago, Dan Naor has proposed building a much larger one, covering 1.6 acres of open water in the Harborview marina off Key Highway. The chief operating officer of Baltimore Marine Centers said it's his way of joining the fight to clean up the city's major tourist attraction, which is blighted by trash, unfit to swim in and beset with algae blooms and fish kills.
Read More: Baltimore Sun 10/14


Michigan
Snyder, feds: Time to stop squabbling and jump-start mass transit for metro Detroit
Governor Rick Snyder said today he wants to see progress on stalled legislation to overhaul mass transit in metro Detroit by the end of the year as part of a renewed push by state and federal lawmakers to resolve one of the region’s most vexing problems. In a news conference with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Mayor Dave Bing, Snyder said he, state lawmakers and members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are holding stepped-up talks to overcome divisions about the proposed Regional Transit Authority legislation that’s been idled in the Legislature. The three leaders acknowledged they have to overcome longstanding disagreements. The Detroit delegation is concerned about shifting too much control away from the city, and suburban lawmakers worry about paying for a transit system that many suburbanites don’t use.
Read More: Free Press 10/15


Minnesota
MnDOT discusses next 20 years of roads
Minnesota roads will be in decline over the next 20 years — that’s the bad news officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation handed out at a public meeting in Detroit Lakes Tuesday. MnDOT is holding stakeholder engagement meetings all across the state to get feedback from different communities on how best to invest its money — a mandated blitz that is done every four years. But money for roads is getting harder to come by, and MnDOT officials are looking for ideas and feedback on how to invest the dollars that they do have over the next 20 years. Transportation experts say it’s not a rosy picture they’re painting, and tough choices have to be made. They project revenue for Minnesota roads will remain flat over the next two decades, but inflation won’t.
Read More: Detroit Lakes 10/10


North Carolina
Light-rail extension moves to fast track
The Charlotte Area Transit System is scheduled to announce Tuesday morning an official deal with the federal government to pay for half of the $1.16 billion light-rail extension from uptown to UNC Charlotte – the last hurdle before construction can begin. The 9.2-mile Lynx extension will connect uptown to NoDa, then run along North Tryon Street before it terminates at UNC Charlotte. The line to the northeast has long been a dream of university leaders. The signing of what’s known as a Full Funding Grant Agreement could be the last major transit construction announcement for years, as CATS struggles to raise enough money to build other projects pledged in 2007.
Read more: Charlotte Observer 10/15


South Carolina
SC rural areas need water, sewer upgrades
South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt says the state's rural counties need water and sewer improvements if they are to attract businesses with high-paying jobs. The state's water resources, or the lack of them, were the topic of the two-day South Carolina Water Resources Conference sponsored by Clemson and its Center for Watershed Excellence. The sessions wrapped up in Columbia on Thursday. During the conference's opening day, Hitt said that water and sewer improvements are needed in 37 of the state's 46 counties to help attract industry.
Read More: The State 10/11


Texas
Is Texas on track to high-speed rail?
Texas commuters, a train could be a comin', and it's possibly a very fast one. The Texas Department of Transportation is launching a two-year, $14 million study of passenger rail service between South Texas and Oklahoma City. That could mean bringing high-speed rail or, at the least, finding ways to connect the state's major cities with some type of rail service. The study also will examine how to fund these projects, which could involve the private sector. The overall goal is to reduce congestion in Texas, officials said. But it could be years — and many billions of dollars — before that's a reality.
Read more: Statesman 10/16


Virginia
Virginia's port operations 'financially unsustainable'
The operation of Virginia's state-owned port facilities is "financially unsustainable" under its present setup, the state's transportation secretary said Monday. The state is subsidizing the Virginia Port Authority's port operations by $60 million to $70 million a year, state Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton told the Virginia House Appropriations Committee. Also Monday, he told the committee that the Carlyle Group, a Washington-based investment group that was one of the four contenders for a concession to operate the state's port system, has dropped out of the competition. Much of the committee's discussion related to the port's financial operations.
Read More: Times-Dispatch 10/15

Board approves financing for U.S. 460 toll-road project
The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the financing arrangements Wednesday to make the $1.4 billion U.S. 460 toll-road project a reality. The state anticipates finalizing the deal with US 460 Mobility Partners, the project's design-build consortium, in December, officials told the state Transportation Board. US 460 Mobility Partners will start design, right of way and permit work in 2013, and the 55-mile highway's construction is to begin in 2014. The road is supposed to open in 2018. Three industry groups competed for the project. State Highway Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley selected US 460 Mobility Partners because its proposal needed the least amount of public subsidy.
Read More: Times-Dispatch 10/18


Washington
Washington candidates for governor agree on transportation points, differ on state budget solutions
In a debate that had Washington’s candidates for governor questioning their opponent’s policies and plans, Washington transportation, including the Columbia River Crossing, provided some rare points of agreement. Washington’s transportation agenda includes financing several mega-projects such as the multi-billion dollar Columbia River Crossing. Seattle’s King 5 and The Seattle Times hosted Tuesday night’s debate. King 5 anchor Jean Enersen moderated the debate and questions were asked by reporters from across the state who have been covering the race and by the candidates themselves. McKenna and Inslee agreed that tolls need to be "in the mix" for Washington’s transportation budget.
The Oregonian 10/17

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