We rely on our infrastructure every day, but on Thanksgiving, it’s especially clear that our built systems play a critical role in supporting or lives. As you head to the airport, board a train, or get behind the wheel, consider the effort required to maintain and enhance the infrastructure that gets us to and from grandma’s house. And as you sit down at the dinner table to enjoy turkey and a glass of wine, remember the water pipes, electricity grid, and more that keep the appliances running, the food safely prepared, and the guests warm.
This holiday season, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is thankful for its community of 150,000 members that serve as the stewards of America’s infrastructure. The advocacy efforts of ASCE members and Key Contacts help you get from work to the dinner table and ensure the our systems are sustainable, resilient, and built for the future. Let’s look back on some of the many things we are thankful for in 2019.
Our Key Contacts Make A Difference
Thank you, Key Contacts, for our largest Fly-In ever! Over 250 Legislative Fly-In attendees met with their Members of Congress in March to ensure ASCE’s priorities continue to be reflected in legislation passed by Capitol Hill. Their efforts contributed to several legislative victories this year.
We are also thankful for our Advocacy Captains, who were involved in legislative efforts on Capitol Hill and in state capitols through the year. You authored op-eds, coordinated state legislative days, spoke at town halls or roundtables, and much more. We look forward to carrying this momentum on into 2020!
Infrastructure Legislative Successes
In October, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act, by a vote of 296 – 109. ASCE endorsed H.R. 2440 earlier this year, and the bill was one of our 2019 Fly-In priorities. H.R. 2440 provides $34 billion over the next ten years for dredging at our nation’s ports. A legislative victory in the House would not have been possible without the joint advocacy efforts of ASCE’s Key Contacts and staff. We will definitely ask for your involvement again in 2020 as this legislation moves to the Senate.
Just last week, Congress repealed the $7.6 billion rescission, or cancellation, of unobligated highway contract authority scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2020. The recession was measure written into the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act back in 2015 that would have resulted in a significant funding cut to state Departments of Transportation. Fortunately, language repealing this funding cut was included in the continuing resolution, or “CR”, which funds the federal government through December 20, 2019. Success was a result of ASCE member outreach, broad coalition support, and ‘shoe-leather’ lobbying. ASCE’s Key Contacts reached over 50 Hill office to urge support for the rescission repeal. Thanks to these advocacy activities, we were able to protect critical transportation funding.
In states across the country, members successfully championed gas tax increases in Illinois, Alabama, Arkansas and Ohio. We also saw the first update the Oregon dam safety laws in 90 years this May – just weeks after their Report Card release. Indiana also notched an infrastructure win with the creation of a program to help communities and small water utilities fund and finance water infrastructure projects.
Key Contacts Take Center Stage
ASCE Members had the opportunity to testify in front of Congress on five occasions this legislative cycle. Director of Houston Public Works Carol Haddock, P.E., M.ASCE, spoke before the House Budget Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. In both instances, Carol spoke about Houston’s efforts to rebuild resiliently after Hurricane Harvey devastated southeastern Texas in 2017. Past Presidents Greg DiLoreto P.E., P.L.S, D.WRE, and Robin Kemper, P.E., LEED AP, ENV SP, F.SEI, F.ASCE, conveyed to Congress the importance of providing robust, sustainable funding as a way to close the investment gap, while Lennart Anderson, RA testified on innovative construction techniques.
ASCE members were also a presence in home districts this year. Attending or participating in well over a dozen town halls in 2019, Key Contacts were readily available to ensure their Members of Congress were up to speed on their state’s infrastructure conditions and needs. Going a step beyond, ASCE members were also highlighted in videos produced by committees or the congressional office itself.
There were even times where Members of Congress (or their staff) came to us! As part of Infrastructure Week in May, ASCE and the City Parks Alliance held a Hill briefing that emphasized the nexus of public parks and green stormwater infrastructure and the critical role of public parks infrastructure in driving local economies and addressing transportation needs. ASCE also hosted a briefing to examine the status of Puerto Rico infrastructure two years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, ahead of the island’s inaugural report card a month later.
Infrastructure Report Cards Tell the Story
Sometimes a year or more in the making, ASCE’s State Report Card Chairs and Committee Members help create the foundation upon which many of our state legislative asks are built. This year, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Iowa, North Dakota, Northeast Ohio, Oregon , Puerto Rico, Vermont, and Washington gave state and local infrastructure systems grades – some for the first time. We use these documents to advance ASCE priorities in statehouses and on ballot measures and educate the public on the important role infrastructure plays in supporting our daily lives. Find out how your state fared.
Infrastructure Successes on Election Night
On November 5th, 19 different states voted in an off-year election cycle on hundreds of infrastructure-related ballot measures. From Maine to Texas, these 270 ballot measures are expected to generate $9.6 billion in new and recurring transportation investment.
Voters made one thing clear: infrastructure is a top priority. Transportation infrastructure measures in particular found great success, as nearly 90% of the collective 305 measures were passed. Thanks to the hard work of our Sections and Branches, many of our positions prevailed.
Happy Thanksgiving from ASCE to you and yours, and be sure to build bridges with your loved ones!