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We must not wait another year to invest in America's aging infrastructure

We must not wait another year to invest in America's aging infrastructure
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Last year was expected to be “the year” for Congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill. That didn’t happen, but recently, a leaked draft infrastructure plan, purported to have come from the White House, was floated around D.C., accompanying rumors about what would be included in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE’s long-awaited infrastructure plan. Then the president revealed his vision for sweeping infrastructure reform in his State of the Union address to Congress.

In his speech, President Trump called on Congress to “produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country desperately needs.” He talked about building “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways and waterways all across our land.”

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As expected, the president’s speech mirrored the key tenets of the recently leaked draft infrastructure plan. It calls for investing $200 billion in federal funds over 10 years, intended to spur state and local investment, as well as “where appropriate” investment from the private sector, to reach a total of $1.5 trillion. The president stated that any legislation Congress produces “must also streamline the permitting process, getting it down to no more than two years.”

 

As president of the American Public Works Association (APWA), representing more than 30,000 public works professionals across North America, I am hopeful the Trump administration and Congress will soon come together and work with organizations such as ours to establish a robust, impactful plan for funding our nation’s infrastructure systems. Our members of the APWA stand ready. We are responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining transportation, water and wastewater treatment systems, waste and refuse disposal systems, public buildings — and other structures and facilities essential to the economy and our way of life.

To date, other legislative priorities such as tax reform, fiscal year 2018 appropriations, regulatory reform, health care and immigration have received all the attention. But infrastructure is expected to soon have its day in the sun.

With the second session of the 115th Congress under way, APWA is calling upon members of the House and Senate to work with President Trump to tackle the challenges and needs of our aging, worn out infrastructure.  

If another year passes without long-term commitment to appropriately funding, operating and maintaining our infrastructure systems, America will continue to dig a deeper hole and fall economically behind and be unable to safeguard the nation’s high standard of living. By investing in infrastructure, we gain improved safety, congestion relief, environmental protection, job creation and a more competitive economy.

Investing in our water and wastewater treatment system allows us to provide safe drinking water; to adequately assist those communities struggling with water safety; to maintain the water quality of our rivers and lakes; and to improve the overall public health of our cities and communities. Considering sustainability, and the need to prepare for natural disasters such as those that affected our country and territories in recent months, for each $1 invested towards disaster mitigation efforts, we can realize a savings of $4 to $8 in future disaster costs. By investing now, we will keep our economy strong and protect the quality of life to which Americans have become accustomed.

The APWA is optimistic regarding an infrastructure policy. We consider 2018 to be the year to invest in public works priorities. These include:

In addition, the federal government must enable and encourage innovative finance solutions, help to streamline project delivery, and enhance state and local flexibility for use of federal funds. We also must invest in new technology to maximize the effectiveness of money spent.

Our organization welcomes President Trump’s goal of improving the nation’s infrastructure. With significant infrastructure investment, we can maintain and enhance our country’s economic competitiveness while maintaining and improving the quality of life for our citizens.

APWA members have first-hand knowledge about what is necessary to solve our nation’s infrastructure challenges. They are on the front lines every day — literally in the trenches building and maintaining infrastructure systems and structures. We commend the president and members of Congress for their strong interest in tackling a critical issue, and we urge them to lead and work together.

We look forward to working with Congress and the White House, and are ready to assist with making infrastructure a national priority.  

William “Bo” Mills is president of the American Public Works Association and director of public works with the City of Germantown, Tenn.