|Will 2009 Be the Year of Infrastructure?|
It's been half a century since the United States has seen a public works program as significant as the development of its interstate highway system. However, civil engineers young and old may soon be in store for a once-in-a-lifetime experience as the economic stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama has the potential to make 2009 one of the most important years in infrastructure development since the 1950s.
On January 13, 2009, ASCE members got a unique glimpse at some of the behind-the-scenes work ASCE is doing on Capitol Hill to help shape the infrastructure portion of the proposed economic stimulus package from Brian T. Pallasch, ASCE's Managing Director of Government Relations & Infrastructure Initiatives, who leads ASCE's lobbying efforts and manages the Washington, DC office. Nearly one hundred people came to the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York to hear Brian's "Will 2009 Be the Year of Infrastructure?" presentation and gain insight into the development of the proposed economic stimulus package and its concentration in infrastructure investment.
Before getting into a discussion of the proposed economic stimulus package, Mr. Pallasch first gave an overview of ASCE's government relations program and described how the Society issues official policy statements on major issues of interest to the civil engineering community and the nation. He also discussed ASCE's key legislative issues for 2009, which in addition to the stimulus package include federal reauthorization of the successor to the SAFETY-LU transportation bill. Other key legislative issues for 2009 are authorization of the aviation program, clean water, water resources development, and civil engineering research programs.
Although there has been no official figure on what the proposed economic stimulus package will ultimately cost, Mr. Pallasch shared the latest cost estimates for infrastructure spending broken down for highways, transit, railroads, environmental infrastructure, federal buildings, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Economic Development Administration, which may amount to a combined total of $85 billion. He also discussed how these funds may be distributed to states via existing funding formulas, how the regional distribution would differ with funds allocated for federal projects, and how the timeframe for the procurement of funds could vary.
Mr. Pallasch also described how ASCE has established principles for selecting projects that will be supported by an economic stimulus investment. Such projects must create jobs and sustain employment; provide long term benefits to the public; take into account long term maintenance needs of all infrastructure projects; ensure accountability and transparency to review the program and measure desired outcomes; deliver improvements in public health, safety, and quality of life; provide a broad-based economic benefit; include sustainable and cost-effective design elements; and provide environmental benefit.
The magnitude of spending proposed in the economic stimulus package has certainly created a buzz around Capitol Hill. Although when President-elect Barack Obama first announced the stimulus package in early December and called on Congress to have a bill ready to sign when he took office on January 20th, in all likelihood the bill isn't expected to be ready until mid-February given all of its complexities. ASCE's 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure was originally scheduled for release on March 25th but the schedule has been accelerated for an initial release on January 28th that includes the grades for fifteen categories of infrastructure, solutions for improvements, and a cost estimate for bringing the condition of the nation's infrastructure up to a good level. The full report card will still come out on March 25th.
Mr. Pallasch emphasized that ASCE's success in the 111th Congress relies upon help from its members. While ASCE's lobbyists are currently meeting with the offices of more than 200 members of Congress, those senators and representatives also need to hear from their constituents and receive anecdotal evidence of how the current economy situation is affecting civil engineers. ASCE makes it very easy to contact your legislators with its Click and Connect with Congress advocacy website and any member that wants to get involved with public policy activities can join the Key Contact Program.
The "Will 2009 Be the Year of Infrastructure?" presentation was organized as a joint meeting with the New York Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-NY) and the Met Section's International Group. This marked an important milestone for the Met Section as it became one of the first Sections to hold a joint meeting with ASCE's newest partner, Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA), a non-profit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life. Many people have already taken advantage of ASCE's affiliation agreement with EWB-USA and have joined EWB-USA at a discounted rate.
A portion of the meeting's profits were donated to EWB-NY's fundraising efforts for designing and constructing a new potable water system for the only hospital in the village of Matunda, Kenya. In this respect, the joint meeting with EWB-NY showed that investments in critical infrastructure are not just limited to projects within our nation's borders; while something like this would just be considered a small investment in the United States, it can help make a life-changing difference in a small African village.
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|Tuesday, May 28th, 2013|
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
ASHE/ASCE 8th Annual Golf Outing
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