We can take heart that there are policymakers working hard out in the states to help find solutions to restoring and improving the nation’s infrastructure. Last week ASCE staff had the opportunity to interact with a small group of state legislators from around the country who have distinguished themselves as leaders on transportation issues. Through a partnership with the Council of State Governments (CSG), ASCE helped to host a Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, DC to talk about the challenges and possible solutions to funding infrastructure at the state level. What we learned is that these state legislators need our help.
Most of the legislators participating in the three-day long meeting serve as the chairman of one of the Transportation Committees in their legislature, so they are on the front lines in facing the challenge of funding the improvements needed in their state. They are fully aware of the problems ASCE has been highlighting in our recent Failure to Act series, but what they expressed to us is how helpful these reports are in demonstrating to their own constituents the need for infrastructure investment. A prominent legislator from Connecticut said, “We need to convince our constituents that there is a need for our state government to increase its investment in infrastructure. These reports can help us do that.” A legislator from Georgia who has been a leader on the effort there to put a 1% sales tax on the ballot this summer to fund transportation projects said, “In my district, we need to realize that revenue is necessary to pay for new projects and maintenance of our current system.”
During the meeting, lawmakers shared information about what they’ve been doing in their respective states on transportation issues, but they also heard from policy experts and advocates from several groups including ASCE. Their agenda also included a visit to several ongoing projects in Northern Virginia hosted by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and meetings with Members of Congress from their respective states. Legislators attended the meeting from Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, and Washington.