The timing was – to quote California advocacy leader John Kilps – “impeccable.”
Kilps and more than 250 other ASCE members from around the country participated in the annual Legislative Fly-In this week, advocating – through virtual meetings – for federal infrastructure investment with members of Congress.
It was a powerful message coming the same week as the release of ASCE’s 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure and the Senate’s vote on a COVID relief bill that could potentially set the stage for a congressional infrastructure package this spring.
“The timing really couldn’t be better,” said Kilps, P.E., M.ASCE, a senior engineer for Imperial Irrigation District in southern California and the chair of ASCE’s Region 9 Government Relations Committee.
“ASCE’s message has been building and building over the years, and I think there’s a lot of optimism this year.”
The 2021 Report Card graded America’s infrastructure a C-, the highest overall mark in 20 years. However, 11 of the 17 infrastructure categories received grades in the D range, and the report found that the long-term infrastructure investment gap continues to grow. Meanwhile, ASCE’s recent Failure to Act study reported that inadequate infrastructure is costing American families $3,300 a year.
The two documents gave ASCE members dynamic conversation starters and talking points during their Legislative Fly-In congressional meetings. Sarah Matin, participating in her 10th Fly-In, highlighted the report card in her meetings with the offices of Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL).
“It definitely is a great way to engage,” said Matin, P.E., M.ASCE, a client development leader in S&ME’s transportation unit in central Florida and an ASCE Region 5 governor.
“I know that all of our representatives appreciate the report card because it’s typically something that doesn’t get a partisan pull. They know we’re talking to them from a background of facts and knowledge and specs, and all that good data that we so love. And I think they appreciate that because they can bring that information forward and help win over their constituents.”
Mark Sanders, P.E., M.ASCE, was among those ASCE members participating in their first Legislative Fly-In. A director of projects for Alpha 3 near Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, Sanders joined ASCE’s advocacy efforts in 2018, working on the Pennsylvania State Report Card.
“I recognize that we really need government to be a partner in decision-making,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to be a functioning partnership. Government needs to play its role. So I very much wanted to get involved and see if I could help facilitate that.”
Among the meetings during the Fly-In, Sanders and the ASCE delegation from Pennsylvania talked with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) Thursday morning.
“He was very happy to talk with ASCE,” Sanders said. “We covered a large variety of infrastructure in the state. He agreed with the need for investment and was very optimistic that, with this administration and this Congress, they would be able to get a bipartisan package together. Certainly, it won’t be easy, but he was optimistic.”