Highways and Bridges

Thursday, October 19 marked the deadline for cities to apply to become the home of Amazon’s second corporate headquarters, a $5 billion project that is expected to eventually employ 50,000 people with average salaries of more than $100,000. The competition, which the company announced last month, sparked a bidding war that demonstrated the growing importance of ecommerce and logistics to the nation’s economy and that allowed many parts of the country to tout their infrastructure assets and, in some cases, to recognize the infrastructure challenges they may need to face in the future.

In February 2016, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law a plan to spend $4.8 billion on state infrastructure over the next 10 years. RhodeWorks, as the plan is known, received significant attention for including a new funding mechanism—tolls on heavy commercial trucks—and a focus on bringing the state’s aging bridges up to snuff.

President Donald Trump’s promise to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure has raised the nation’s awareness about infrastructure needs in all 50 states. Above and beyond the desire or need for infrastructure additions, it’s clear that the crumbling and aging bridges, roads, water pipes and buildings currently in place need attention. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded the nation’s infrastructure at a D+; the same as it was the previous year.

CSG Midwest
Design and construction of a new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., could begin in just over a year. In November, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority...

Today, the Council of State Governments joins nearly 350 other organizations, businesses and government agencies in expressing support for Imagine a Day Without Water, an initiative of the Value of Water Coalition, a group focused on elevating the importance of water in the economic, environmental and social well-being of America.

Recognizing the challenge of financing and completing needed infrastructure projects, several states in 2016 approved legislation that allows them to enter into public-private partnerships (P3s). But P3 legislation has not always guaranteed quick success in moving projects forward and some states without P3 legislation have been able to explore P3s nonetheless. A number of other states have taken steps in recent years to clarify their goals and procedures with regards to P3 projects. These actions are taking place as the universe of P3 infrastructure projects around the country is expanding well beyond toll roads.

When U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx finished his remarks at the recent InfraAmericas conference on public-private partnerships, or P3s, in New York City, Kentucky state Rep. Leslie Combs was first to the microphone for the Q&A. “We just passed P3 legislation in Kentucky,” said Combs, who this spring authored the legislation that allows Kentucky, like 33 other states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, to enter into P3s to build infrastructure projects.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, D.C. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 19 as part of the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he talks about ASCE’s recent report “Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future.” He also discusses the importance of factoring in operations and maintenance costs and the overall lifecycle costs of projects as the investment price tag is considered, how much the federal gas tax would need to go up and how much individuals might have to pay on a daily basis to close the infrastructure investment gap, and whether public-private partnerships might help to close the gap.

Ten state legislators from around the country, chosen in consultation with the CSG regions, attended the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy May 18-20, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The academy took place against the backdrop of Infrastructure Week, a week of infrastructure-themed events in the National’s Capital and elsewhere. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in Infrastructure Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill and to meet with officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation. They took part in a policy roundtable with stakeholders and experts from such organizations as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Transportation for America, the Eno Center for Transportation and the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure. In addition, they attended briefings on state regulation of rideshare companies, autonomous and connected vehicle technologies and transit-oriented development. The group also toured the area around Navy Yard, a rapidly developing, transit-centric D.C. neighborhood that is home to Nationals Baseball Park and the U.S. DOT headquarters. And they heard remarks from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne about the commonwealth’s efforts to reform its processes for transportation project selection and public-private partnership deployment. This page includes photos from the three-day academy, the complete agenda for the event and links to web pages where you can read extended excerpts of remarks from many of the speakers, view their PowerPoint presentations and find additional materials.

With the melting of the last remnants of snow from Winter Storm Jonas and another major winter storm set to impact millions of Americans in the southern Rockies, central plains and western Great Lakes this week, it seems as good a time as any to check in on how states are dealing with winter weather transportation concerns so far this season. There are numerous examples of states turning to technology, investing in equipment and trying to improve on past performance. Here’s a roundup.

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