Infrastructure Woes – Will Funding Pass Soon?

Without a doubt, our nation’s infrastructure needs a lot of work. GAI’s Midwest Markets Senior Director Scott Hornsby, PE, shares his experience with Indiana representatives and senators in Washington, DC discussing this vital issue.

In late April, I was in DC for the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) National Conference and came away excited about the buzz on infrastructure.

GAI is an ACEC member, both national and at the state level. As part of the conference, each state takes the opportunity to lobby their representatives and senators on Capitol Hill industry issues. Our industry voice is getting louder as attendance grows at this event yearly. We were part of the Citizen’s lobby.

ACEC’s national Political Action Committee now raises over $1 million per year, making us one of the heavyweights in DC, and it definitely helps us get our message out to Congress.

This year we focused on Infrastructure Funding (Trump’s $1 Trillion plan), water funding, and tax reform and the effects on engineering companies. I visited with three Indiana Representatives—Larry Buschon, Trey Hollingsworth, Jim Banks—and US Senator Joe Donnelly.

Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (center) with Scott Hornsby directly on his right. Indiana ACEC Executive Director Beth Bauer and other Indiana business representatives were also present.

The nation has watched the struggle President Trump has had with getting legislation passed through Congress on major issues such as health care, immigration, and tax reform. After listening to the conference panelists and visiting the Indiana congressional delegation, the one area most likely to see successful legislation is on infrastructure.

The vast majority of our infrastructure is reaching the end of it serviceable life. Many of our underground utility pipes are over 100 years old and our aging interstate highways are 50 years old. Congress and the President agree: Something needs to be done.

But how do we pay for it and move forward?

We discussed how not doing these fixes can cost more in the long term. We also talked about funding infrastructure through a higher gas tax, which is the easiest way to begin fixing the problem in the short term because the collection system is already in place.

The federal gas tax of 18 cents per gallon hasn’t been raised since 1993. The purchasing power has been cut in half due to inflation.

Everyone agrees that longer-term gas taxes won’t be effective as vehicles continue to get better gas mileage and electric, alternate fuel, and hybrid vehicles become more widespread. The use of tolls and/or a fee-per-mile system will need to be implemented and should be indexed to inflation.

So what did I come away with from this conference that is different from other conferences?

Infrastructure can be the one major item that Trump and Congress can find common ground on and pass major infrastructure legislation. They all see the need for it. It may not be a trillion dollars, but I believe we will see the funds needed to fix our infrastructure problems and get important projects started within the next 18 months.

Scott Hornsby, PE is a leader in GAI’s Midwest Transportation Market. As an industry advocate, he is an active member of ACEC, is on the Build Indiana Council Board of Directors, and has served as President of the Indiana ACEC Board of Directors. For further information, Scott can be reached at 317.570.6800.

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