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This Week in Washington - September 6




ASCE to Release New Economic Report Next Week on Airports, Inland Waterways, and Marine Ports
Sequester Threatens Some Programs, Spares Others
Congress Set to Return Next Week
U.S. Infrastructure Falls To 25th in New Report on Global Competitiveness
COFPAES Plans Federal Markets Conference for Engineers, Architects
ASCE Needs Your Success Stories for the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
State Legislative Updates

 

 

 

ASCE to Release New Economic Report Next Week on Airports, Inland Waterways, and Marine Ports

On Thursday, September 13, 2012, ASCE will release a new Failure to Act report evaluating the economic impact of current investment trends in our nation’s marine ports, inland waterways, and airports. The report will be unveiled at a press conference in Washington, D.C. with ASCE President Andy Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE. Other panelists will include Rick Calhoun, president of Cargo Carriers, a business of Cargill Inc., Jerry Bridges, executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, and Grant Aldonas, former undersecretary of commerce for international trade.

This report is the fourth report in the Failure to Act series that measures the impact on jobs, GDP, household income, and other economic indicators if the nation continues to invest in infrastructure at current levels. Previous reports have analyzed electricity, surface transportation, and drinking water and wastewater. Look for the latest report next Thursday here.

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Sequester Threatens Some Programs, Spares Others

Unless Congress acts when they return next week, federal spending in nearly all areas is scheduled for automatic cuts of nearly 8 percent on January 2nd. The cuts, known as sequestration, would total $1.2 trillion over nine years, split equally between defense and non-defense discretionary spending. This would affect nearly all Federal agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Reclamation, National Science Foundation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

If Congress is unable to reach a compromise on the deficit and spending reductions, sequestration will be the result. While talks from Capitol Hill already appear to show that Congress will pass a continuing resolution to delay sequestration another six months (not coincidentally after the election) if nothing is done, funding for infrastructure and other civil engineering priorities could see significant cuts.

A report by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which was expected to be released this week but has been delayed, is required to include a detailed list identifying all exempt discretionary and mandatory spending accounts that will be affected by the sequestration.

Both the Highway Trust Fund and the Airport Improvement Program will not be affected by sequestration, but transit programs, which do receive some General Fund revenues, could expect cuts.

Exempt transportation programs are:
• Federal-Aid Highways
• Highway Traffic Safety Grants
• NHTSA operations and research, and National Driver Register
• Motor Carrier Safety Operations and Programs
• Motor Carrier Safety Grants
• Transit Formula and Bus Grants
• Airport Improvement program

Transportation programs that are not exempt are:

• Transit New Starts
• Amtrak and other passenger rail programs
• FAA Operations
• FAA Facilities and Equipment
• FAA Research

ASCE will provide more details on affected programs once the OMB report is released and will continue to keep all Key Contacts up to date as Congress looks to avoid the potential deep cuts that could be caused by sequestration.

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Congress Set to Return Next Week

Congress returns to Washington next week for a brief work period before lawmakers head home in October for the sprint to the November 6 elections. The agenda is packed with items that could be addressed; however, serious action in such a heated campaign environment is unlikely.

With a surface transportation bill finally enacted this summer, leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee discussed the possibility of a hearing on the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) before the end of September. The legislation that authorizes funding for locks, dams and other water resources infrastructure, was last authorized in November 2007.

In the House, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has indicated he might pursue action on rail policy, but no specifics have been outlined.

Congressional leaders reached a deal in July to continue funding the government at FY 2012 levels through March 2013, averting an appropriations crisis at the end of the current fiscal year later this month. Appropriations for the remainder of FY 2013 will be determined by the 113th Congress after it is convened in January.

Unfortunately, prospects for other civil engineering priorities such as reauthorization of STEM education programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as “No Child Left Behind”) and reauthorization of hazards research programs through the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, are dim and these issues are unlikely to be taken up before the 112th Congress adjourns later this year.

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U.S. Infrastructure Falls To 25th in New Report on Global Competitiveness

The World Economic Forum released The Global Competitiveness Report 2012 - 2013 this week showing that quality of overall US infrastructure is now rated 25th-best in the world. Taking into account sustainable competitiveness, the report develops a framework “to develop policies that balance economic prosperity with social inclusion and environmental stewardship.” Infrastructure is considered a component of this framework. Switzerland was named as the country with the best quality infrastructure while Haiti ranked last. For quality of our roads, the US ranked 20th out of 144 counties. For railroads, the US ranked 18th behind countries like Switzerland (1), Germany (7) and Canada (15). For quality of ports, the US ranked 18th,and for air transportation, the US ranks 30th.

Download the full report here.

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COFPAES Plans Federal Markets Conference for Engineers, Architects

The Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES) will hold a daylong Federal Markets Conference on Thursday, October 11, 2012. The conference will be held at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the American institute of Architects, 1735 New York Ave. NW. The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. There is no parking at AIA. Click here for Metro and parking information.

ASCE is a founding member of COFPAES, which was formed in the 1960s to enact legislation to require the use of qualifications-based selection (QBS) procedures for A/E contracts. The Brooks Architect-Engineers Act was signed into law in 1972.

Principals, owners, and partners of A/E firms, as well as marketing and business development executives, will get a snapshot view of the upcoming federal market for architecture, engineering, surveying and mapping services contract awards. Top officials from key federal agencies will present information on program budgets and near-term projects and procurement opportunities.

Past COFPAES sessions have featured the General Services Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Federal Highway Administration, State Department Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. A similar line-up of agencies is being assembled for October 11.

Registration for ASCE members is $195. Registration for non-members is $245.

View the agenda and REGISTER TODAY.

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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 us at govwash@asce.org.

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State Legislative Updates

Arizona
Education tax backers defend including road construction
Proponents of a permanent one-cent hike in state sales taxes for education are defending setting aside 10 percent of the $1 billion that would be raised for road construction. At a press conference Tuesday, organizer Ann-Eve Pedersen detailed how her group believes the Legislature has short-changed education for the last several years. And she said that has occurred even in the face of new mandates. Proposition 204, however, guarantees $100 million in the first year for roads, assuming projections hold. Pedersen said the funding is justified. She said economists like Dennis Hoffman of Arizona State University say the "two main things'' the state needs to be competitive are investments in education and transportation infrastructure.
Read More: East Valley Tribune 9/4


Louisiana
Jindal Wants Expansion Of Levee System That Guarded New Orleans
The $14.5 billion project after Hurricane Katrina to improve New Orleans levees passed Isaac’s test, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Now, state and federal officials should expand the system to protect low-lying areas throughout Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal said. Jindal, who has criticized Barack Obama for excessive spending, used the occasion of the storm to press for federal money for his state. Before Isaac hit, he said the Democratic president wasn’t providing enough funding to cover the costs of storm response. The governor wrote Obama a letter saying the storm requires “full federal assistance for the state.”
Read More: Bloomberg 8/31 


Massachusetts
All 5 transportation board members out before state remake
Governor Deval Patrick has dismissed all five members of the state transportation board, the first step in replacing the powerful panel that oversees Massachusetts highways and public transportation with a larger board structure approved by lawmakers last month. In a letter dated Aug. 23, Patrick notified the board members of their dismissal and, at the same time, invited them to reapply for a seat on the new seven-member board that the Legislature, with little fanfare, voted to create last month at the administration’s urging. Top Patrick administration officials say they will consider anyone who reapplies, but no one is guaranteed a position — raising the prospect that the makeup of board will be significantly altered.
Read More: Boston Globe 9/4


Tennessee
Memphis exploring new transportation user fee
A new "transportation user fee" being studied by the city's Public Works Division could generate revenue for such projects as street repaving, pothole repairs and median maintenance. Planning for the new fee is in the embryonic stage, but Public Works director Dwan Gilliom said it could provide up to $60 million annually. Public Works has hired North Carolina-based Kimley-Horn and Associates to do a $75,000 study to explore the fee. "Exactly how it would be paid, who would pay it, how it would be assessed and how it would be implemented is what we're looking at," said Gilliom.
Read More: Commercial Appeal 9/4


Texas
TxDOT says outsourcing highway maintenance could save millions, but previous pilot project fell flat
Based on assumed savings from a five-year pilot project that began this summer, the Texas Department of Transportation is considering outsourcing all routine maintenance on long stretches of Texas interstate highways, including much of Interstate 35. The agency has touted the potential savings as high as $120 million over five years. TxDOT has presented the pilot as a fresh concept and a success even in its infancy, but the agency has experimented as early as 1999 with having private companies take over all maintenance of parts of I-35 and Interstate 20. And the results of that program were "extremely disappointing," according to legislative testimony by TxDOT's former executive director.
Read More: Statesman 9/4


Virginia
VA asks Feds for OK to toll only one point on I-95, tolls only to top up tax-$s
The McDonnell administration in Virginia has drastically scaled back its plans for tolling I-95. In its recently filed application to the Feds, two toll points have been reduced to one. And the lone mainline toll point is located in the most lightly trafficked segment of I-95 in the state in a rural setting 22 miles north of the North Carolina border. As a result gross toll revenues at a mere $40m/year in the early years and $65m to $70 in the 2030s will only finance a small proportion of the improvements needed on the state's most important interstate highway. In place of tolls as the major financing engine for VA/I-95 they are now planning them as a modest top-up to hugely increased tax funding.
Read More: Toll Roads News 9/5 

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