New coalition lobbies Congress on ‘smarter’ infrastructure

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A newly formed group of digital infrastructure companies is urging Congress to modernize the construction of roads, bridges, broadband networks and other public projects.

The Coalition for Smarter Infrastructure Investments says a majority of construction firms and state transportation agencies still rely on pen and paper to map out projects. The coalition wants to add provisions to the infrastructure bill now being negotiated in Congress to incentivize the use of advanced technologies meant to make public projects more efficient.

The coalition’s members include infrastructure software company Bentley Systems and engineering firm Mott MacDonald. The group is making the case to lawmakers that its members’ digital products would save taxpayers money, reduce the carbon footprint of transportation projects and produce more equitable results for disadvantaged communities.

The group is also stressing global competitiveness.

David McKenney, vice president of infrastructure digital twins at Bentley Systems, said Chinese clients are typically among the first to adopt his company’s new products such as 3D modeling and mapping software.

“Other countries are outpacing the U.S. both with their infrastructure investments and their use of technology,” McKenney said. “If we want to compete, we’ve got to prioritize that infrastructure and modernization.” 

Arshi Siddiqui, a lobbyist at Akin Gump and former top aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is leading the group’s lobbying effort in Washington. The coalition is reaching out to Democrats and Republicans, focusing on members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The coalition says lawmakers could offer grants to states and government contractors to encourage them to modernize their systems or require the use of advanced technology for certain projects funded by the infrastructure package. Its members say the relatively small investment in technology would pay dividends by reducing the cost of construction and speeding up the process. 

“We’re finding good support on both sides of the aisle,” McKenney said. “Folks agree by and large we need to update our infrastructure. Folks agree we need to do it in a way that maximizes the value out of every dollar we spend.”

Democrats are weighing whether to pass President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal through budget reconciliation or work with Republicans on a smaller bipartisan package.

Senate Republicans unveiled a $928 billion counterproposal last week.

Democrats were forced to reconsider their legislative strategy on Wednesday after Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough effectively ruled they can only use reconciliation one more time this year.

Tags digital Infrastructure Joe Biden Lobbying Nancy Pelosi White House

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