As civil engineers, ASCE works with federal lawmakers to pass legislation that will improve the nation’s “D+” infrastructure. In 2015, the federal government passed several notable pieces of legislation that will increase investment into our nation’s infrastructure and also prepare the next generation of civil engineers through STEM education. Here’s a review of the accomplishments.
Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act Passed
As a result of the ASCE’s continued federal advocacy effort on transportation, Congress passed and the President signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. FAST provides the first long-term transportation program in more than a decade with five years of increased funding for federal highway, transit and passenger rail programs. Highway investment from this bill increases by 15%, and transit spending grows nearly 18%. Hundreds of ASCE members made personal visits and calls to Congress and promoted the #FixTheTrustFund message making the FAST Act possible. The FAST Act is a step forward for America’s infrastructure.
Federal Water Infrastructure Funding Program Made More Flexible
ASCE joined with water sector partners to make a new loan guarantee program passed in 2014 more flexible for municipalities. The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program previously prohibited combining federal low interest loan guarantees with tax-exempt municipal bonds which left local governments few options for borrowing additional money at low interest rates. ASCE worked to lift the prohibition, and this fix was achieved as part of the FAST Act.
Strong STEM Focus in the New Education Act
ASCE worked closely with Congress as a founding member of the STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) Education Coalition to ensure that the Every Student Succeed Act,the long overdue update of the No Child Left Behind Act (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) maintained a strong focus on STEM subjects. The Act promotes STEM education by:
- Maintaining standards and tests in math and science
- Expanding high-quality STEM courses
- Encouraging development of statewide assessments that integrate engineering and technology concepts
- Providing direct grants for students’ STEM educational enrichment activities
- Maintaining funding for teacher training
Reducing the National Impact of Windstorms
In September, Congress passed and the President signed legislation to reauthorize the National Windstorm Hazards Impact Reduction Program (NWHIR) providing $21.1 million for 3 years. ASCE was instrumental in the creation of Windstorm Program in 2004, and continues to lead the effort to renew this program. The reauthorization modifies the program by designating the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the lead agency. The program ensures coordination on federal efforts to mitigate the impact of severe winds with work split among four federal agencies including NIST, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.