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View Diary: Think Big: Transportation overhaul would save money, create jobs, cut pollution, burn less oil (167 comments)

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  •  What can help (10+ / 0-)

    at least from the infrastructure angle, is to have more civil engineers seek public office, particularly Congress.  I'm a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and have gone to DC the last 2 years as part of our legislative fly-in.  I live in Northeast Texas, and my Congressman is Louis Gohmert (yes, the terror babies guy).

    An infrastructure new deal is certainly necessary, and I'm all for it.  But I think that near-term legislation also needs to be a priority.  Surface transportation funding (including rail) is usually done with 6-year bills.  The last 6-year bill expired in 2009, and surface transportation funding has since been funded through continuing resolutions.  While the funding may stay the same during the same, planning cannot be done.  A 6-year bill allows planning, which then allows for more hiring and equipment purchases, among other things.  In other words, jobs are created with a 6-year bill in comparison to continuing resolutions.

    Currently, the House is considering a $230 billion 6-year bill, down from the last 6-year authorization of $275 billion.  John Mica (R-FL) is the committee chair.

    The Senate, meanwhile, has put together the framework of a $330 billion 6-year bill.  This is obviously a better bill, but will require a funding source for about $100 billion.  No one there seems crazy about increasing the gas tax, and I'm not sure what other solutions are being considered.  Barbara Boxer is the committee chair.  To my horror, Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member has been suggesting a 2-year extension, which is terrible.  The House bill, while deeply flawed, is still better than a 2-year extension

    In his budget, President Obama proposed a 6-year $500 billion surface transportation bill.  This is obviously the one that I favor the most, but given this congressional environment and the reluctance to raise revenues for even $100 billion, coming up with funding for $270 billion is that much harder.

    Also, we have legislation pending on a National Infrastructure Bank in both the House and Senate.  The Senate plan is loans only, while the House plans consists of loans and grants.  John Kerry is the lead sponsor in the Senate (with Mark Warner, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Lindsey Graham as co-sponsors).  Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is the sponsor of the House bill.

    Along with working on getting President Obama re-elected, I will be spending a lot of time over the next couple of years working on increasing infrastructure investment.  In October 2011, I will become the Vice-President Professional for the ASCE Texas Section, which deals with infrastructure issues among many things.

    What I have found is that local measures are often easier to make happen and can start the seeds.  My local branch, the ASCE Northeast Texas Branch, endorsed a $52 billion streets bond initiative in the city of Longview.  The bond passed with 61% of the vote.  Additionally, I served as the field director for the Kasha Williams for City Council campaign.  Kasha was part of the task force that put together the bond measure and its priorites and was a tireless advocate for its passage (the bond initative and her election were on the same day).  And it paid off handsomely -- Kasha won the election in a race for an open seat, and the bond measure passed.  The bond measure passed 1321-821,  In District 3, the tally on the bond was 679-160.  Excluding District 3, the bond measure would have lost.  The lesson in my view?  Having advocates on the front lines for infrastructre is priceless.

    Finally, speaking as a civil engineer, I urge those not in the engineering community to speak up and talk to their congresspeople about infrastructure.  I think it's easy for Congress to humor us engineers, and then just ignore us.  But a large grassroots community on the front lines is harder to ignore.  

    Finally, here is the 2009 ASCE Report Card on Infrastructure.  It is dismal to say the least.  Feel free to use it as ammunition when talking to people, whether it be your neighbors or your elected officials.

    Thanks
    Vik Verma

    Barack Obama for President '08

    by v2aggie2 on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 10:16:32 AM PDT

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    •  The one area Obama's been really good in. (0+ / 0-)

      Transportation.

      It may be worth it to support him just because of that.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Sun Jun 19, 2011 at 11:35:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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