Article by Kate Luce Angell
Since September, the Pittsburgh section and other Pennsylvania sections of ASCE have been working on a statewide social media and public relations campaign aimed at raising awareness about the critical need for a long-term fix for the Highway Trust Fund, and about the findings of the 2014 Infrastructure Report Card.
As you’re probably aware, Congress is facing yet another deadline before the Trust Fund runs out of money November 20. As a result, it’s been a busy time for infrastructure news, and there’s both good and bad. Below is a summary of what’s been happening recently and what has been going on with the campaign so far.
First the good. The 6-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 passed Nov. 5 in the House by a vote of 363-64. The Act maintains current funding levels for highway programs, increases bus funding by almost 40% to reverse cuts in the last transportation reauthorization, increases railway-highway grade crossing funding, and continues current funding levels for the Transportation Alternatives Program. It will also create a program to fund large freight projects.
Now the bad. The Senate and House must now resolve the differences between their 2 versions of the legislation before the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money Nov. 20. Also, although it is 6-year legislation, there’s only funding in place for 3 years, and all of that comes from the Fed’s surplus capital, $29.3 billion as of Oct. 29. An increase in the federal gas tax, which many business leaders point to as the best way to guarantee long-term funding (as well as long overdue, last raised in 1993), was rejected by Republican leaders. Finally, pretty much everyone agrees that maintaining any infrastructure funding at the current levels is woefully inadequate.
Public Relations News. ASCE Pittsburgh Government Relations Committee Chair, Greg Scott, had his Letter to the Editor imploring legislation to pass the Act printed Nov. 5 in the Post-Gazette. Additionally, the Post-Gazette editorial board also printed a strong support for long-term transportation funding on Nov. 3. Lastly, this article in the New York Times gives a good overview on current proceedings.
Social Media News. The ASCE PA Facebook page has been regularly updated since the beginning of September with breaking infrastructure news and a series of infrastructure- and Trust Fund-related memes. Over the last week, ASCE Pennsylvania debuted another new meme on the ASCE PA Facebook page, this one focused on the need for transit funding, and we’ll release new memes in the upcoming weeks. There have also been several substantive articles from different publications on the nation’s infrastructure crisis. Check out the human cost of crumbling infrastructure in the Times, and a support for raising the gas tax in Mother Jones.
How you can help.We’re still working under a ticking clock. To that end, the social media campaign going forward will focus on urging legislators to meet that new November 20 deadline. The Trust Fund website is a great place to start, but if you know your federal legislators, reach out to them personally and tell them how important it is for them to get this bill finalized and into law.
Thanks for everyone’s ongoing efforts!