Government Affairs

ACPA: Take the Grand Challenge

ACPA is encouraging all civil engineers to take the “Grand Challenge” initiative, which is aimed at reducing the life cycle cost of infrastructure projects by 50 percent by 2025.  The initiative also fosters innovations and promotes optimization of infrastructure investments.

Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the initiative has been formally endorsed by ACPA. To get started, ACPA is encouraging all civil engineers to visit the dedicated website, at https://ascegrandchallenge.com/.

Taking the challenge is quick and simple.  From the home page, users can learn why their support is needed, then take the pledge by clicking the “I’m In” tab and completing a simple online form.  Users also have the option of sharing stories about how they are helping achieve the goal, as well as communicating about the initiative through social media channels.

After taking the Grand Challenge, or if you’ve taken it already, please take a moment to click on the highlighted link to send ACPA a preformatted email confirmation.

Why is This Important?
The goal of the program is to encourage civil engineers to rethink what is possible, and to transform the way they plan, deliver, operate, and maintain the nation’s infrastructure.   At the core is the goal of closing a gap between available funding and infrastructure needs. 

“Our policy and funding advocacy are no less important than in the past. However, they cannot close the gap alone,” says Leif Wathne, P.E., ACPA Executive Vice President. “We must do what our profession alone is uniquely qualified to do. We must lead the significant improvement in the delivery and life cycle performance of infrastructure investments through innovation spurred on by performance based standards; increased focus on life cycle performance, especially through life cycle cost analysis, and enhanced resilience.

He emphasizes that advocacy for increased funding, a solution to the Highway Trust Fund issue, and fair and equitable policies (including competition) are still important, but adds that the Grand Challenge is an important process for civil engineers to make a profound impact by raising awareness, controlling life-cycle costs, and optimizing investments in highways, airports, and other infrastructure.

ACPA Encourages TCC Fly-In Participation

(Photo: CJ Stumpf, Wikimedia Commons, with permissions.)

ACPA is again encouraging members and Chapter/State affiliates to participate in this year’s TCC Fly-in, which is scheduled for May 17 and 18 in Washington, D.C. 

The timing of the event is especially critical, given the President’s infrastructure initiative being a top priority.

This point and other factors are compelling reasons for ACPA members and other transportation-construction advocates to participate in the event and call on elected officials to urge their support.   

It is also important for the Administration and Congress to hear from industry that any infrastructure proposal must address the long term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.  In the FAST Act of 2015, Congress authorized funding levels for federal aid highway spending through FY 2020, but additional revenue will be needed to support a growing program into the future. 

About the TCC Fly-In
The event begins with a legislative briefing from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday, May 17.   The briefing will include an update on policy funding proposals, as well as other timely information.   A Capitol Hill Reception will follow at 6:00 p.m., and this is a good opportunity to visit with legislators and staff members, as well as others in the industry who share the common interest in a strong, well-funded, and sustainable program.

On Thursday, May 18th, attendees are encouraged to start their day with a breakfast at 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., and then to visit Capitol Hill from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Participants will receive educational briefing materials on key industry priorities for use in meetings with their congressional delegation(s).

This year’s meeting will once again be held at the Hyatt Regency Washington, 400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20001.  For registrations, please call 1.888.421.1442 or 1.202.737.1234.   To register for the briefing, which also includes the reception and breakfast, please click here to visit the Blueskyz.com registration website.   The registration fee is $175. 

 

 

 

 

Nebraska Creates a Transportation Department

Gov. Pete Ricketts holds up LB 339 while Director Kyle Schneweis, background, and others applaud. (Photo: Jake Daniels)

The State of Nebraska now has a Department of Transportation, thanks to legislation signed into law on April 27 by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R).

LB339, which was introduced by Senator Curt Friesen of Henderson, creates the Nebraska Department of Transportation (DOT) by merging the Department of Roads and Department of Aeronautics.  

The legislation was one of the Governor’s top priorities for the 2017 legislative session, and was passed with overwhelming support from the Legislature, according to an announcement by the Governor’s office.

“This legislation will create efficiencies, which will allow us to put more money into runways and roads without sacrificing jobs,” Governor Ricketts said.  “Thanks to Aeronautics Director Ronnie Mitchell and Roads Director Kyle Schneweis for all their work on this merger.  Also, thanks to Senator Curt Friesen for sponsoring and championing this bill in the Legislature.”

The Department of Aeronautics will join the Department of Roads under the new DOT umbrella with Aeronautics becoming a division of the current Roads structure.  Schneweis will lead the Nebraska Department of Transportation with Mitchell overseeing the aeronautics division.  Neither Department has identified positions to be eliminated but do anticipate two positions will be transferred from Aeronautics to Roads with more savings expected, according to the announcement.

“Merging these two agencies into one DOT shows that all forms of transportation are important for economic development across this state,” said Senator Friesen.  “In rural and urban areas, we depend on good safe roads and strong competitive air service for growing our economy.”

“We look forward to the opportunities this partnership provides to streamline services,” said Director Schneweis.  “This initiative supports the state’s commitment to more efficient and effective, customer service focused government.  A united agency will help Nebraska take a more strategic, long-term view of our state’s transportation needs.”

Legislation to Speed Road Construction 

A second bill signed by the governor is aimed at accelerating road projects throughout the state.  LB271 was introduced by Senator Mike Hilgers of Lincoln and prioritized by Senator Suzanne Geist of Lincoln.  The bill authorizes the new DOT to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the United States Department of Transportation, allowing the state to assume responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.  This arrangement has helped accelerate roads projects in other states.

“Thank you to Senators Hilgers and Geist for working with their colleagues to bring LB271 to my desk,”  said Governor Ricketts.  “With this measure in place, our new Department of Transportation will have another tool to help accelerate infrastructure construction in Nebraska.”

“This bill is a win-win for Nebraskans—it will help get our highway projects done faster while saving millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Hilgers.

A third bill signed into law addresses workforce housing shortages across the state.  Under the bill, rural communities in counties of fewer than 100,000 people can apply for grant funds to build workforce housing.  

ACPA Urges Budget Committees to Help with Highway Trust Fund

Budget Committee Leaders (L-R) Sen. Mike Enzi, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Diane Black, and Rep. John Yarmuth. (Composite of official Senate and House photos.)

With two letters sent in early April, ACPA and other transportation advocates* urged the Leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives’ budget committees to boost infrastructure investment “in a fiscally responsible manner,” while also finding a long-term, growth supporting revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

The groups note that although the 2015 “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act provides “sufficient HTF to support the modest transportation investment increases it authorized through FY2020, it relies on $70 billion in transfers [from the General Fund of the Treasury] to achieve the goal.

Citing the Congressional Budget Office, the group warns, “There will be a nearly $20 billion average annual shortfall between existing revenue and the amount needed to prevent cuts in highway and public transportation once the FAST Act expires.”

The letters were sent to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); House Budget Chairman Diane Black (R-Tn.-06) and Ranking Member John Yarmuth (D-Ky.-03); and members of both committees.

Please click on the links to see the letters to the Senate budget committee and House budget committee.

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*  In addition to ACPA, other organizations to sign the letters were:  American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Concrete Pipe Association, American Council of Engineering Companies, American Highway Users Alliance, American Iron and Steel Institute, American Public Transportation Association, American Public Works Association, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Traffic Safety Services Association, Americans for Transportation Mobility, Associated Equipment Distributors, Associated General Contractors of America, and Association of Equipment Manufacturers.   Also, Building America’s Future, Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute,  International Union of Operating Engineers, Laborers’ International Union of North America, National Asphalt Pavement Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of State Highway and Transportation Unions, National Electrical Contractors Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, National Steel Bridge Alliance, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, and National Utility Contractors Association.   Also, People for Bikes – Business Network, Portland Cement Association, Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, The Association of Union Constructors, Transportation Construction Coalition, and United States Chamber of Commerce.

Highway Advocates Encourages Congress to Fix HTF

The American Concrete Pavement Association, along with 24 other road user groups, transportation-construction organizations, labor unions, and other stakeholders pressed Congress to work toward a solution to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) issue in proposed comprehensive tax reform legislation.  The groups urged Members of Congress to sign on to a “Dear Colleague” letter to the Leadership of U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. The letter follows similar correspondence sent to Ways & Means in May 2016.

While Congress was able to pass the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act in 2015, the Representatives wrote, the five year reauthorization was supplemented by a General Fund transfer and offset with federal resources unrelated to the surface transportation programs. Without any action, Congress will be tasked with finding close to $100 billion to fully fund the next five year surface transportation bill which expires in 2020. They urged Ways and Means Committee members to come together and begin discussions on how to address the HTF’s long term financial stability.

Key industry groups representing a wide range of road users and roadbuilders continue to urge Congress to find a durable solution to the HTF issue as a necessary part of any highway and bridge construction program.  Click here to see the draft letter.

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The complete list of organizations involved in this advocacy effort includes the:   American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; American Automobile Association; American Bus Association; American Concrete Pavement Association; American Concrete Pipe Association; American Concrete Pressure Pipe Association; American Council of Engineering Companies; American Highway Users Alliance; American Road & Transportation Builders Association; American Society of Civil Engineers; American Traffic Safety Services Association; American Trucking Association; Associated Equipment Distributors; Association of Equipment Manufacturers; Associated General Contractors of America; Association of Independent Passenger Rail Operators; Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance; Highway Materials Group; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; National Asphalt Pavement Association; National Electrical Contractors Association; National Ready Mixed Concrete Association; National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association; National Utility Contractors Association; Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association.

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