On September 25, the House Committee on the Budget, whose chief responsibility is to draft an annual concurrent resolution on the budget that provides a Congressional framework for spending and revenue levels, held is first hearing focusing on the nation’s infrastructure in recent memory. ASCE Board member and Director of Houston Public Works Carol Haddock testified, as the sole engineer on the panel.
The 2.5 hour hearing entitled, “America’s Infrastructure: Today’s Gaps, Tomorrow’s Opportunities, and the Need for Federal Investment” focused on the status of U.S. infrastructure, the impact of federal policies and investments, and the potential for both short- and long-term economic growth. Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) opened the hearing sounding the alarm on infrastructure needs by stating, “a strong economy relies on strong infrastructure to function effectively. Yet our infrastructure is increasingly outdated, damaged, or inadequate for today’s demands, and federal investments have failed to keep pace.” We happen to agree.
Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) added, “we are a nation of builders and infrastructure is part of the core foundation that has created and moved the America we all know.” He further noted that infrastructure has traditionally been a bipartisan issue which has served the nation well.
“Infrastructure investment will have a direct impact on our economy through jobs in construction but more importantly – operation and maintenance funds. Direct sustainable and long-lasting investment in infrastructure is investment in this country,” stated Ms. Haddock. In her testimony, she noted that state and local governments have stepped up to face the infrastructure challenge and the federal government has a vital role to play in developing and funding a comprehensive solution. She highlighted the findings of ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card and the report Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future, emphasizing that our nation’s cumulative grade was a “D+” – not a grade she would be proud of.
Citing Houston-specific examples of the recovery from Hurricane Harvey and continuing challenges from recent weather events, she emphasized that Houston has faced four 500-year flood events in the past four years alone and that vulnerable infrastructure simply can’t bounce back without major re-investment.
This week’s hearing is part of ASCE’s mission to highlight the state of our nation’s infrastructure and the need for robust and broad legislation. In just the last 18 months, ASCE has testified six times Capitol Hill on infrastructure issues, including appearances before Committees not usually associated with infrastructure, such as the House Way and Means Committee and the House Small Business Committee.
ASCE urges all infrastructure stakeholders to reach out to your Members of Congress and tell them to put forward a long-term plan to modernize our infrastructure systems.