Let’s Focus the Nation’s Priorities on Infrastructure
T’S THE ELECTION season again! For many, this may
induce a groan as they wonder how they’ll make it
through endless attack ads and sound bites from the
myriad candidates running for office at every level of
government. But elections are also
influence how our country is gov-
erned and what its priorities are.
As civil engineers—designers and
stewards of our nation’s infrastructure—we should be asking all candidates how infrastructure will fit
into their priorities if elected.
I continue to be frustrated by
the lack of discussion about infra-
structure’s role in improving the
nation’s economy. With elections
at every level of government fo-
cused on jobs and the economy,
we need to be out there remind-
ing people at every opportunity
that the various facets of our infra-
structure—our roads, bridges, electric grid, and water sys-
tems—constitute the lifeline of our economy and are key
to our recovery. Infrastructure should be a high priority and
the topic of any campaign concerned with continued eco-
nomic recovery, job creation, or our general quality of life.
We celebrated a success last month when Congress ap-
proved, and the president signed, a new surface transpor-
tation bill, the first signed into law in nearly seven years.
However, that bill is just the beginning. We need a focused
national plan to up our game on infrastructure invest-
ment. For example, such solutions as a national infrastruc-
ture bank that would facilitate the funding of infrastruc-
ture improvements nationwide should be front and center
in the economic platforms of our presidential candidates.
ASCE works hard to increase public awareness of these is-
sues. On the national level, we look forward to the 2013 Re-
port Card for America’s Infrastructure, which will be released
in March and promises to spark debate over how the new
Congress should act on infrastructure. Our Failure to Act
series continues to call attention to the true costs of not ad-
dressing our well-documented infrastructure needs and thus
drives home the meaning of our poor infrastructure grades.
Elected leaders and the media have taken notice of these
findings. Likewise, our sections and branches continue to
evaluate infrastructure in their communities through an in-
creasing number of state and local report cards, thereby in-
fluencing policy debates on the local level. To obtain more
information on all of these activities and to see if your state
or region has a report card, visit www.asce.org/reportcard.
While we continue to work hard to make your issues
heard, election season offers you numerous opportunities
to become involved on a personal level. From something as
simple as registering to vote, you are already playing an important role. In an age in which media and information are
readily available, there are numerous other opportunities
for engagement. Town hall meetings, campaign events, on-line forums, and social media all present avenues for you to
help us make infrastructure the issue during this campaign
cycle. For tips on how to become involved in elections, visit
our “Government Relations” page at www.asce.org/govrel.
With that said, ASCE must also continue to remain nonpartisan. As a 501(c)( 3) organization, ASCE exists as a nonprofit body dedicated to promoting the public good. By
law, ASCE may not endorse or oppose candidates or engage in any partisan political activities at any level. When
you become involved this election season, please remember that our duty as civic leaders is to rise above the political fray and to debate issues as the credible experts we are.
As civil engineers, we are the ones who know the infrastructure needs of this country, and thus we are uniquely qualified to impart this information to candidates and
elected officials. But please remember that if you choose to
become involved in promoting individual candidates for
office, you must do this only as a concerned and involved
citizen, not as a representative of ASCE at any level (
national, section, branch, or student chapter). For additional information on this topic, visit www.asce.org/govrel.
As a nation, we must realize that we need to invest as users of our infrastructure. Finding reliable, long-term funding sources will be a critical component of our nation’s
solution to the infrastructure challenges we face today.
In addition to dedicated funding, states need the flexibility to pursue such innovative approaches as infrastructure banks, public-private partnerships, and the Federal
Highway Administration program based on the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
Our nation’s commitment to our future economic well-being is wavering just when we need it most. This failure to act on infrastructure is something that no one
seems to be talking about in this election cycle, and this
has to change. It’s time for our elected leaders and prospective candidates to take a stand on infrastructure investment and to make the right choice for our future.
—ANDREW W. HERRMANN,
P.E., SECB, F.ASCE
 Civil Engineering SEPTEMBER 2012