Tag Archive for 'American Society of Civil Engineers'

ASCE Reports: States Hit the Brakes on Road Projects As Federal Fund Goes Broke

{08d819bc-1d22-4dd2-80f4-4bea43d54eb4}_ASCE_GovernmentRelations_WashingtonInstead of shifting into high gear during what is normally the peak of construction season, state transportation departments around the country are easing off the gas pedal as the federal Highway Trust Fund barrels toward insolvency sometime next month.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund, which allocated $37 billion to the states for highway projects in the fiscal year that ends September 30, will run out of money in August unless Congress can come up with a solution before then. (The mass transit account of the fund is in slightly better shape, but not by much.) The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) put together state fact sheets for at least 26 states listing projects that are in jeopardy without federal funding. See if your state is on the list.

Read More: Stateline 7/2/2014

ASCE Reports: USDOT Announces Plans to Change Payment Schedule to States Starting August 1

{08d819bc-1d22-4dd2-80f4-4bea43d54eb4}_ASCE_GovernmentRelations_WashingtonOn Tuesday,July 1, 2014,  President Obama addressed a group of transportation advocates, including ASCE’s President Randy Over, P.E., F.ASCE, near Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. where he urged Congress to act to prevent insolvency of the federal highway program.  “I haven’t heard a good reason for why they (Congress) haven’t acted,” Obama said.  “It’s not like they’re busy with other stuff,” the president said in reference to the fact that the 113th Congress has passed fewer bills than any other in modern history.  Next week, the House and Senate are scheduled to convene while tax committee leaders negotiate on a bipartisan solution to ensure highway funding for the remainder of the calendar year.

That same day, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced that beginning August 1, due to a lack of revenue in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), reimbursements to states will be provided every two weeks instead of the current twice daily schedule.  The USDOT announcement was made as the HTF nears insolvency.  When the fund’s reserves dip below $4 billion, as is expected on August 1, the department will alter its cash management in a way that they view as most prudent and equitable for the states.  “There is no good option when we’re talking about a trust fund that is running out of dollars,” Foxx told reporters Tuesday morning.  USDOT cites that on average states will see a 28 percent drop in federal transportation dollars due to delayed payments.  This piecemeal approach to reimbursements may put many current projects on hold, slow down the advertisement of new projects, or even cancel proposed projects.

The President and Administration officials have pledged to continue trying to help Congress identify a funding solution that can be signed into law by the August 1 deadline which is also when Congress adjourns for five weeks.  The Society has been urging Congress for months to identify a long-term, sustainable solution to fund the nation’s surface transportation program and avoid a summer program catastrophe.  The Society urges all members to tell their lawmakers to move quickly on a solution. Visit fixthetrustfund.org to learn more about how you can get involved

ASCE Reports on Gas Tax Increase, Highway Trust Fund Shortfall, Important Bill Stall

Our transportation infrastructure has become a major issue as current funding faces a serious shortfall. More than halfway through the year and most road repairs are still waiting to be started let alone completed. If the country faces another winter like the one that just passed, we’ll need tanks or half-tracks to navigate the pot-hole dominated transportation infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as well as other associations, such as American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), are growing more concerned as Congress continues to battle over possible solutions to this problem.

Over the years a number of solutions have been proposed and all have been rejected because party politics are more important than user needs. ASCE has posted a number of statements on this situartion.

{08d819bc-1d22-4dd2-80f4-4bea43d54eb4}_ASCE_GovernmentRelations_WashingtonBipartisan Senate Duo Calls for Gas Tax Increase

U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bob Corker (R-TN) released a plan on Wednesday to raise the federal fuels tax and index it to inflation. Their proposal would increase the gasoline and diesel fuel tax (currently at 18.4 cents and 24.4 cents per-gallon, respectively) by 6 cents per gallon in each of the next two years, for a total rise of 12 cents, and index that tax to inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The plan would also include a tax relief offset to minimize the fiscal strain placed on consumers and businesses from any future rate hike. ASCE Executive Director Patrick Natale, P.E., applauded the announcement, calling it, “an encouraging step to improve our economy and raise the grades on the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure.” It is estimated that the proposal would raise enough revenue to fund federal surface transportation programs at current levels, and provide for a very slight increase in the out years because of indexing.

Late last year, ASCE supported legislation introduced by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), H.R. 3636, the “UPDATE Act of 2013,” which would increase the fuels tax by 15 cents per gallon over the course of three years and also index it for inflation. This Congress marks the first time, in a long time, that both the House and Senate have openly discussed, and had members endorse, increases in the federal gas tax. Prospects of this Congress actually enacting such a measure remain unclear, though the best chance may be in the interim legislative period known as the “lame duck” session which begins after the November election and could stretch until the end of December. ASCE will continue to urge Congress to enact legislation that provides a significant, long-term sustainable funding source for surface transportation programs and projects.

New Report Looks for Solutions to the Highway Trust Fund Shortfall

On Wednesday, joining a chorus of advocates looking to move on the Highway Trust Fund, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) released a new report looking for solutions.

In the paper, CRFB calls for a long-term solution, which brings highway spending and revenue in line. Short of that, they also suggest that transferring money into the Trust Fund from general revenue would be acceptable if and only if that transfer is fully paid for with other spending cuts or revenue increases. The paper includes a huge number of potential options to help close the Highway Trust Fund shortfall that help add to the policy debate on Capitol Hill.

Read the report

Senate Debate on Combined Transportation, Science Appropriations Bill Stalls

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate pulled three fiscal year (FY) appropriations bills – Commerce, Justice and Science; Transportation, Housing and Urban Development; and Agriculture – from the floor because there was not agreement on how to proceed with votes over amendments. The Senate had originally planned to debate the bills into next week with hope of speedy passage. The U.S. House of Representatives has already held votes on Commerce, Justice and Science, and Transportation, but has not yet passed Agriculture.

On Transportation, the House approved legislation to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) at a slightly lower amount than is contained in the Senate bill. Both the House and Senate provide $40.3 billion for highways, and the House provides $600 million less for transit, $450 million less for TIGER grants, $130 million less for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and $200 million less for Amtrak.

The Commerce, Justice and Science section provides a total of $51.2 billion in proposed discretionary budget authority for programs at the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This is a decrease of $398 million below the fiscal year 2014 level and is funded at the same amount as the bill that cleared the House, although the two chambers’ versions differ in details. Specifically, the Senate bill provides:

• $7.2 billion for NSF, an increase of $83 million over fiscal year 2014. The House version provides $7.4 billion.
• $900 million for NIST, $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The House version contains $856 million for NIST.
• $17.9 for NASA, $254 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. The House version also funds NASA $17.9 billion.

Should the Senate quickly resume debate and adopt these appropriations bills and should the House approve Agriculture, there exists sufficient time before the August recess for both chambers to remedy any differences and enact legislation on-time before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. However, if recent history is any indicator, it is more likely that an appropriations patch, or “continuing resolution”, of some short-term length will be required this fall.

ASCE has been urging Congress to agree on a fix for the Highway Trust Fund which is facing insolvency in the next couple of months. Appropriations bills and current enacted funding levels will be inadequate to prevent a funding crisis if there is not enough money in the trust fund to provide project reimbursements. That is why ASCE is urging the public to act now and tell their Members of Congress to “Fix the Trust Fund“.

From ASCE Roundup: 10 Myths About the Highway Trust Fund

ASCEhttp://blogs.asce.org/10-myths-about-the-highway-trust-fund/?utm_campaign=GR-20140606-TWiW Email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua

BY  Becky Moylan

1. The Highway Trust Fund is Running Out of Money Because We Waste Money

Thanks to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), first passed in 1991, transportation projects are planned, developed and executed efficiently while utilizing innovation. Grades in the Report Card prove that when we invest in infrastructure, we see results. The 2013 Report Card saw improvement in six infrastructure sectors that benefited from private investment, targeted efforts from cities and states, or a one-time federal funding boost.

Communities oftentimes know best where money will be best utilized, and the Highway Trust Fund allows many transportation project decisions to be made on the state and local levels. For example, federal funding eligibility for bicycle lanes is a concern in many places. Since there is a growing national share of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities that needs to be addressed through better road design and other proven countermeasures, the Highway Trust Fund allows a community to identify this need on its own roads and decide how to best design bike lanes for that community.

2. The Federal Government Should Get Out of the Infrastructure Business and Let States Make Their Own Decisions

The Highway Trust Fund is designed to assist states in paying (historically about 45 percent) for transportation projects for many reasons, and it is a system that has served the country well. The cost of transportation projects is a huge expense and states do not have the funding to go this alone.

The U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3) grants Congress the power to invest and maintain roads, bridges and transit.

From the Interstate Highway System (keyword: Interstate) to our ever-expanding electrical grid, infrastructure is indeed a national issue that must be addressed through a national vision.

3. The Current Gas Tax Rate is Perfect and Does Not Need to Be Changed

The Highway Trust Fund is how Congress provides federal funding for transportation projects. It was created in 1956 to be funded by the federal gas tax.

The U.S. Department of Transportation projects that the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money for new projects as early as July. According to the Congressional Budget Office, to prevent insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund in 2015, federal surface transportation investment would have to be cut by 92 percent that year.

The gas tax is not tied to inflation and hasn’t been raised in more than 20 years. We are trying to run a 2014 transportation system on 1993 dollars. Consider that the cost of many items has doubled or tripled since 1993. For example, a new car cost $12,750 in 1993, whereas in 2013 a new car costs on average $31,252.

The purchasing power of the federal gas tax is not what it once was. This is obviously an untenable formula that must be addressed.

4. We Can Just Raise Enough Revenue Through Tolls and Public-Private Partnerships (P3s).

Tolls and P3s can be successful sources of revenue, and are a part of the overall solution, but neither is a silver bullet in finding a sustainable long-term funding source. Historically, federal highway funding has accounted for approximately 45 percent of what state DOTs spend on highway and bridge capital improvements. Quite simply, the federal government must lead on the issue of funding.

For the 10 year window, 2015-2024, the cumulative shortfall in the highway and mass transit accounts of the HTF will be over $170 billion. This is too large a figure for anyone to expect to be filled by tolling and P3s. While as House T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has said “the private sector continues to show significant, growing interest in investing in infrastructure,” they cannot be a substitute for federal investment and federal leadership.

The key is finding a long-term, sustainable funding source. P3s and tolls are pieces of the puzzle, and when partnered with a sustainable revenue stream, can help ensure reliable revenue for the Highway Trust Fund.

5. We Don’t Have Enough Revenue Because People Are Driving Less

Over the past two years, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) actually increased; in 2012 by 0.3 percent and in 2013 by 0.6 percent. While there was a downturn in vehicle miles traveled after 2007, this decrease coincided with the recession. As the economy continues to improve, more employees will return to work, increasing VMT. Furthermore, the U.S. population grows each year by just under three million people, and the number of licensed drivers also grows by two million people. It is estimated that this trend in population growth will lead to an increase of 25 billion VMT annually.

6. Raising the Gas Tax Would Hurt Economic Growth

In our Failure to Act economic studies, ASCE explored the consequences of continued underinvestment in infrastructure. Ultimately, the studies concluded that our deteriorating infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 867,000 jobs in 2020 and suppress the growth of our GDP by $897 billion by 2020. Per household, the cost of deficient surface transportation will cost $1060 per year. To simplify, a homeowner can either fix a leaky roof now or wait for his or her home to eventually cave. Clearly, the former is much more cost effective. Our nation’s infrastructure needs to be tended to and funded now, or we will all continue to pay for it in a multitude of ways at much higher costs.

7. The Gas Tax Isn’t Raising Enough Money Because Cars are More Fuel Efficient

Between 2012 and 2022, gas tax revenues will decrease by less than 1 percent, ($2.5 billion) the CBO estimates. The issue at hand is not really fuel efficiency, but rather that the gas tax has not been increased since 1993. In the 20 years since, it has lost more than a third of its value because of inflation. Fuel efficiency will become more of a problem as fuel efficiency technology continues to advance in the coming decades, but in the near term it is less of a problem than often stated.

8. We Can Afford to Do a Short-Term Bill and Maintain the Status Quo

Not this time. The 2012 surface transportation law, MAP-21, temporarily preserved levels of federal highway and public transportation investment by supplementing existing Highway Trust Fund revenues with other federal resources. Since 2008, over $52 billion has been transferred from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent.

MAP-21’s funding will run out as the Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent weeks, or more likely months, before the law intended the money to end. Attempting to “Band-Aid” the Trust Fund once again will only result in this becoming a recurring issue. States, planners, and engineers cannot plan needed infrastructure projects without committed funding. As the impending insolvency demonstrates, there is currently not enough revenue to support the system.

Furthermore, the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded our nation’s infrastructure at a D+. Clearly that status quo is not enough in helping the U.S. build a 21st century infrastructure capable of competing on a global scale.

9. Congress Cannot Get Big Things Done Because Everything Turns in to a Partisan Fight

In the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “Infrastructure spending is popular on both sides.” In the past year transportation legislation and funding ideas have come from both Democrats and Republicans. Notably, Rep. John Delaney’s (D-MD) Infrastructure Bank bill was proposed with an equal number of Democrat and Republican co-sponsors. Sen. Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Boxer (D-CA) have worked closely to craft a six-year highway bill, which passed out of committee with a unanimous bipartisan vote. And Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) proposed a tax reform bill which included $126 billion for transportation projects in an effort to close the Highway Trust Fund shortfall. Efforts from both sides of the aisle, and the recent bipartisan support that led to the passage of the Water Resources Reform & Development Act (WRRDA), prove that there is support for infrastructure investment in both parties.

Furthermore, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support  raising the gas tax, stating it is the “simplest and most straightforward” option to fund a long-term highway bill.

Without question, infrastructure is a bipartisan issue that has seen encouraging proposals on both sides. Given that this is an area where Congress can agree, now is the time to work together and get something done.

10. We Don’t Have the Money to Fix The Problem

The Highway Trust Fund will become insolvent in only a couple months, meaning the federal government will slow or stop sending checks to state DOTs this summer. The economic consequences of not being able to pay contractors and employees will send shockwaves throughout our economy. This is going to happen.

The notion that we simply cannot find a long-term, sustainable revenue source is false. The costs of inaction and allowing the Highway Trust Fund to cease funding for needed repairs and maintenance are immense.

Americans are already paying for the cost of our nation’s D+ infrastructure. American families and businesses are losing money and time. Congested roads cost an estimated $101 billion per year in wasted time and fuel, and driving on roads in need of repair costs motorists an average of $324 per year in vehicle repair and operating costs.

We can either invest now or pay a whole lot more in the years ahead. The lesson is clear: We can’t afford not to act.

See more at: http://blogs.asce.org/10-myths-about-the-highway-trust-fund/?utm_campaign=GR-20140606-TWiW%20Email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua#sthash.slaN6mgb.dpuf

 

Today in the DOT Fast Lane! Patrick Natale, Exec Dir. of ASCE, says it’s time to “Fix The Trust Fund”

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When I go to Capitol Hill, too many Congressmen tell me they aren’t hearing from their constituents on infrastructure issues. I then ask, “But are they calling about losing their jobs? Or not being able to make ends meet?”

The Congressmen always reply, “Of course.” But these issues are not mutually exclusive. Federal funding for roads, bridges, and transit is set to go over a cliff by the end of August. If it does, projects will stop, jobs will be lost, prices will go up, and public safety will be jeopardized.

This week, the American Society of Civil Engineers launched FixTheTrustFund.org—a new grassroots campaign for families and business, giving them the tools they need to motivate Congress and find a sustainable, long-term funding solution to America’s transportation funding crisis…

You can read more about fixing America’s infrastructure on our Fast Lane blog.

Infographic from A.S.C.E. showing economic costs of US infrastructure deficiencies