September 18, 2019
  • 2:34 pm Committee Leadership Comes into Focus for 116th Congress
  • 2:22 pm Interstate System Report Calls for More Funding, Tolling, VMT Fees, and Cybersecurity
  • 2:15 pm In Memoriam: President George H. W. Bush, ISTEA, and Transportation
  • 1:56 pm Growth Projected for Transportation Projects, but Costs a Challenge
  • 1:35 pm FAA Reshuffles Executives, Plans Drone Identification Rulemaking in Spring 2019
  • 1:28 pm Predictive Technology Helps Reduce Crashes on I-15 Corridor in Las Vegas
  • 1:14 pm Video Report: MoDOT Produces Multi-Lingual Safety Message
  • 1:11 pm PennDOT Nears Completion of Rapid Bridge Replacement Project
  • 1:08 pm Infrastructure Grants Awarded to “Smaller” South Dakota Communities
  • 12:31 pm Coalition Letter Continues to Urge Repeal of Rescission
  • 12:25 pm Tolling, Congestion Pricing Debated at House Hearing
  • 12:22 pm Letter Argues AV Safety Must be “Paramount Concern”
  • 12:15 pm EPA, Dept. of the Army Formally Repeal 2015 WOTUS Rule
  • 12:12 pm INRIX Study Highlights Potential of Micromobility

A panel discussion hosted by the American Council of Engineering Companies at its annual legislative summit in Washington, D.C., focused on several key infrastructure challenges, especially in terms of funding sources and finding enough workers to meet construction demand.

[Above photo by ACEC.]

“There is an appetite in Congress to spend money on infrastructure. It may not be the amount we need, but it will be beyond what we are spending now,” noted Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Will it be a $2 trillion package like what Congressional leaders and President Trump discussed? I don’t know. But infrastructure is one area where we can get something done. There is a window of time here to do something.”

Photo by ACEC

Joining Tymon on ACEC’s panel were: Mike Toohey, president and CEO of the Waterways Council Inc.; Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute; Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America; and Paul Skoutelas, president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association.

Most of them noted that finding enough funding for infrastructure, much less for a $2 trillion package, is a major hurdle.

“We see the gas tax as most reasonable and rational way to raise revenue for transportation; and it has not been raised [at the federal level] for 25 years,” noted Sandherr. “Many on both sides of the aisle, including the president, say raising it is something we need to do.”

Toohey added that gas taxes have been successfully increased in the past only with public support from the president. “Without presidential leadership, what is in it for a Congressman in a non-earmark environment?”

Jim Tymon at left. Photo by ACEC.

“We view infrastructure funding as joint responsibility between the federal, state, local governments,” Tymon noted. “The federal government has not increased the gas tax in 25 years, yet over 30 states have raised it within the last five years. And the politics of that are not falling along traditional partisan lines – support from state legislators on both sides of the aisle for it [gas tax increases] hasn’t cost them their seats. Hopefully, legislators at the federal level will see that and take encouragement from it.”

Meanwhile, finding enough workers to handle increases in infrastructure construction demand is becoming more difficult.

“The economy is great and unemployment rates are low –  but the bad news about that is it makes it harder to attract and retain workers,” Tymon explained. “Not just at the engineering level; this includes the construction, equipment operator, and maintenance levels. States are having to be more innovative – whether going out and partnering with community colleges or creating more flexibility in the workplace. They have to think outside the box now to attract and retain a workforce to get the job done.”

Sandherr agreed with that assessment. “Our biggest challenge is finding workers – we’re turning down work,” he explained. “Wages in the construction trade are 15 percent higher than the average trade – and these are jobs not likely to go overseas. You can be a welder for $90,000 to $100,000 a year in your 20s; that’s a great story we need to tell.”

%d bloggers like this: