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This Week in Washington - September 14

 
ASCE Issues New “Failure to Act” Report on Airports, Marine Ports, & Inland Waterways
MAP-21 Funding Levels at Risk
Bipartisan Policy Center Releases Report on Consequences of Reduced Federal Transportation Spending
Poll Shows Support for Transit Investment
DOT Begins Work on Freight Strategic Plan
Supreme Court Turns Attention to Stormwater Runoff
Are You Registered to Vote?
State Legislative Updates 

 

 

ASCE Issues New “Failure to Act” Report on Airports, Marine Ports, & Inland Waterways 

Yesterday ASCE released its latest "Failure to Act" report on the economic impact of underinvestment in America’s infrastructure. In the report ASCE has projected a significant gap between planned investment and spending needs for the nation's airports, marine ports, and inland waterways. With ports and inland waterways critical to our nation’s global competitiveness, ASCE's report forecasts investment falling $16 billion short of the $30 billion needed through 2020. For airports, ASCE projects a gap of $19 billion from a total need of $114 billion. Failing to meet the gaps creates a drag on the economy by causing congestion and delays for U.S. businesses that import and export goods, leading to higher transportation costs and causing the price of goods to rise. Read and download the full report.

The fourth report in the Failure to Act series was released during two events in Washington, D.C., one for media members and another for Congressional staff. Both events were moderated by ASCE President Andy Herrmann, and joined by Virginia Port Authority Executive Director Jerry Bridges, and Rick Calhoun, President of Cargo Carriers. The event on Capitol Hill was highlighted by remarks from Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-CA), co-chair and founder of the Ports Caucus.

Previous Failure to Act reports have analyzed electricity, surface transportation, and drinking water and wastewater. Access the complete series at www.asce.org/failuretoact.

You can view media coverage of the release below:

America's ailing ports invisible amid the country's failing infrastructure
Washington Post
The estimate was presented Thursday in a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, a professional trade group that has commissioned a series of reports on the gap between current spending on infrastructure and the funding needed to repair or ...

Aging Port Infrastructure Threatens 1 Million U.S. Jobs, Says ASCE
Dredging Today
Aging infrastructure for marine ports, inland waterways, and airports threatens more than 1 million U.S. jobs according to a new Failure to Act report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)…

American Society of Civil Engineers says U.S. jobs threatened by aging ports ...
Birmingham Business Journal
A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers said jobs in the United States will be threatened unless maintenance of aging infrastructure for marine ports and inland waterways is properly funded.

Billions in upgrades needed for ports, waterways, civil engineering group ...
Corpus Christi Caller Times
The Failure to Act report, completed by the American Society of Civil Engineers warns that the country needs about $30 billion in infrastructure improvements to accommodate expanded international trade by 2020. That is about $16 billion more than what ...

Study shows port funding lax, but Manatee ahead of game
Bradenton Herald
That shortfall could create a drag on the U.S. economy to the tune of 1 million jobs and $700 billion worth of GDP by 2020, according to a report released Thursday by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The group lobbied for the federal government ... 

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MAP-21 Funding Levels at Risk

The bipartisan six month continuing resolution (CR), which will keep the government funded until a few months into the 113th Congress, will be a cut from the transportation funding levels authorized under MAP-21. While the policies enacted under MAP-21 will go into effect October 1st, Congress will be keeping the current funding levels in place, a roll back from the inflation bump presented under the new legislation.

The current CR does not account for the small funding increases that were part of the new transportation law, which was signed into law this July after a difficult path toward a bipartisan compromise. The funding bill runs for six months — meaning there’s $277.5 million less for roads and bridges than the new law assumed. If it ends up getting extended for the full year, which is possible, it would come in at $555 million below what MAP-21 authorized. The discretionary TIGER grant program will receive funding at a prorated level of around $250 million for the next six months with the CR, based on the $500 million it received last year. Additionally, the increase in the TIFIA loan program from $122 million last year to $750 million this year appears safe, for at least six months.

Senate Environment and Public Work Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), quickly spoke out against the cuts this week, stating that “Congress made a commitment to the American people that we were going to invest in our nation’s infrastructure at a time when our economy needs it the most. Congress cannot go back on that promise.”

ASCE sent a letter to all Members in the House and Senate condemning the cuts from authorized levels. After nearly three years of short term extensions, ASCE was pleased to see MAP-21 enacted. The legislation provides certainty for state departments of transportation and the private sector to implement long-term transportation plans and support jobs until September 2013. That certainty is undermined when the measure’s investment levels are subject to cuts before the new law goes into effect.

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Bipartisan Policy Center Releases Report on Consequences of Reduced Federal Transportation Spending

Did you know that there is a 35 percent difference between the highway trust fund’s current revenues and what the federal government is spending? The new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the Eno Center for Transportation sheds light on the potential consequences if Congress were to reduce spending to meet revenues. More than half of the states rely on their allocation of federal funds for 25 to 40 percent of their state’s transportation spending, yet the report projects if Congress cuts funding less than half of these states would be likely to raise revenues sufficient to fill the gap. The report acknowledges that “cutting federal funds for transportation, without more extensively reforming the existing surface transportation program and without making those cuts in a thoughtful manner that allows for careful consideration of the federal role, would be potentially devastating.” Read the full report here.

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Poll Shows Support for Transit Investment 

Polling data released this week shows strong support for transit investment in all parts of the United States. A poll conducted by a bipartisan polling team commissioned by the National Resources Defense Council found that only one in three Americans consider their public transportation systems to be in good shape, and over 70 percent say they have no choice but to drive as much as they do. The poll also showed that Americans support increased local investment in transit options. However, the poll also revealed that many people overestimate how much funding is dedicated to funding public transportation in their communities even as they expressed the desire for more investment in transit in their local communities. View details here.

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DOT Begins Work on Freight Strategic Plan

ASCE staff participated in a freight roundtable on Thursday held by the Department of Transportation in order to focus on the freight provisions outlined in MAP -21. MAP-21 establishes a national freight policy and calls for the creation of a National Freight Strategic Plan. The roundtable comes shortly after Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, announced the creation of the USDOT Freight Policy Council. The DOT’s Freight Policy Council will develop the necessary strategic plan and work on other key freight provisions in the legislation. The event was a first step in reaching out to stakeholders about potential strategies for implementing MAP-21 freight provisions and also acted as the kick off for a national on-line dialogue regarding freight related interests.

The Freight Policy Council’s primary purpose, as outlined in the group’s charter, “is to oversee and coordinate the development and implementation of MAP-21 freight policy provisions, including the National Freight Policy, advance the President's National Export Initiative, and at the request of the chair, make recommendations to the secretary regarding freight policy issues”.

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Supreme Court Turns Attention to Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff will never rise to the cultural engagement of the newest reality show, but a runoff case that has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court does have a federalism impact on state legislatures.

The consolidated case of Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center and Georgia-Pacific West, Inc. v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center concerns who should regulate stormwater runoff from logging roads: state and local governments or the federal government.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case which NCSL signed onto. The issue the SLLC focused on in its brief is whether the lower court should have deferred to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) longstanding position that channeled stormwater runoff from logging roads doesn’t require an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Read more: NCSL The Thicket at State Legislatures 
 
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Are You Registered to Vote?

Time is running out in many communities to register to vote for November's elections. 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. 

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State Legislative Updates

California
California state parks budget officials for years unable to explain surpluses
Over and again, budget officials at the California Department of Parks and Recreation struggled to understand why every fiscal year ended with millions of dollars in surplus cash on hand. At least since 2009, budget reviews conducted by the department each January showed a multimillion-dollar surplus, according to hundreds of pages of witness testimony reviewed by The Bee. Budget officials turned over regularly at state parks headquarters amid what one called a "hostile work environment," and each seemed powerless to figure out why the mystery money kept piling up. The department's beleaguered deputy director of administration, Manuel Thomas Lopez, appeared angry and confused about the surpluses, according to staffers' testimony. One year, he ordered a budget manager demoted, saying he simply didn't believe her estimate of a $25 million surplus – even though she later was proved correct.
Read More: Sacramento Bee 9/13

Florida
All Aboard Florida still seeking route to airport
Would-be builders of a billion-dollar privately financed train still are looking at several options on how to get from near Cocoa to Orlando International Airport. All Aboard Florida, the 240-mile system that would link the airport with three South Florida cities, has access to tracks running from downtown Miami all the way to Jacksonville through Florida East Coast Railway. But the company stills needs a path to get to OIA. Husein Cumber, executive vice president of development for All Aboard Florida, said Wednesday his company continues to talk with the state and the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority, both of which operate a toll road where the right of way would provide the most logical path for the train.
Read More: Orlando Sentinel 9/12 

Georgia
After transportation tax failure, no consensus on next step
No grand conclusions were reached Wednesday by a panel seeking to brainstorm the next step for funding transportation projects in Northeast Georgia. Most agreed, though, that the gridlock that ended with the defeat in July of a referendum to establish a 1-percent transportation sales tax needs to be bypassed. The sales tax referendum failed in nine of the 12 Georgia regions. The 10-year tax was meant to fund transportation projects throughout the state. It failed in the 12-county area that includes Athens with almost 65 percent of voters saying no.
Read More: Athens Banner-Herald 9/12

Maryland
As toll cheating increases, Maryland does little to enforce rules
Thousands of vehicles are repeatedly blowing through Maryland E-ZPass lanes without an ¬E-ZPass transponder, and the state is doing little to collect the millions of dollars in unpaid tolls. One car-rental company owes the state nearly $209,000 in unpaid tolls and penalties despite having received nearly 7,000 letters over four years, according to state figures. Eight other rental companies owe between $80,000 and $200,000 each, with some violations dating back eight years. Individual vehicle owners aren’t paying up, either. About 15,000 owe more than $500 each. Pay up, the Maryland Transportation Authority says, or the vehicle’s registration could be suspended. But the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration hasn’t suspended a vehicle registration for nonpayment of tolls in more than two years. That’s because the authority hasn’t been hitting violators with a $50 citation, which it has to do by law if it wants the MVA to suspend registrations.
Read More: Washington Post 9/10

Minnesota
Opinion
One word for Minnesota: Infrastructure
A fiscal nightmare is forming below the feet of most Minnesotans. The state's wastewater systems are aging and need to be modernized, with costs in the billions. The necessary statewide upgrades will require significant investment, which for some communities will be too steep in a time of state budget cuts and slow economic growth. Across Minnesota, sewer and sanitation infrastructure systems are often entering their fourth, fifth and even sixth decades of service, stretching their lifespans to the breaking point, Minnesota 2020's latest report finds. Most systems last between 30 and 50 years, depending on their construction, before needing major maintenance or replacement.
Read More: Star-Tribune 9/9

Oklahoma
Opinion
New eight-year bridge repair plan a victory for Oklahoma lawmakers
Oklahoma lawmakers tend to get raked over the coals for what transpires at the Capitol, often for good reason. We come today with nothing but praise for those who saw the need to properly fund transportation, and continue to do so. The news Monday that state road commissioners had approved an eight-year work plan that will repair or replace Oklahoma's remaining structurally deficient state bridges — 634 of them — was truly cause for celebration. Only eight years ago, the state had 1,168 structurally deficient bridges. We led the nation in that dubious category. Before that time, it was nigh impossible to make a dent in reducing that number because of inadequate funding from the Legislature.
Read More: Oklahoman 9/13

Texas
Endangered Spider Discovery Stops $15 Million Texas Highway Construction Project
While biologists may be rejoicing over the recent discovery of a rare spider that was thought to be extinct, not everyone is elated -- particularly commuters around San Antonio, Texas. Workers found the Braken Bat Cave Meshweaver (Cicurina venii) spider, which hasn't been seen in three decades, in the middle of a $15.1 million highway construction project in northwestern San Antonio. The eyeless arachnid is on the endangered species list—since construction would disrupt the spider's natural habitat, the project has been halted for the foreseeable future.
Read More: Huffington Post 9/10

Virginia
EPA withholds aid until Virginia improves Chesapeake Bay
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is withholding $1.2 million in grant money from Virginia because the state is not doing enough to combat a key pollutant as part of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Virginia was supposed to receive more than $2.4 million this year in federal aid to help implement a more aggressive approach toward restoring the Bay as pushed by President Barack Obama. But citing a lack of progress in addressing federal concerns over how the state intends to curb stormwater pollution from city streets, parking lots and urban storm drains, the EPA is shelving half the money. Virginia can apply for the rest if improvements are made.
Read More: Virginian Pilot 9/11 

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