Nick_Yaksich_Cutline-copy.jpgBy Nick Yaksich
AEM Senior Vice President

Congress last fall passed its first long-term highway bill (the “FAST Act”) in years, to the fanfare of AEM and many other industry groups who benefit from the highway construction market.

But there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done, highlighted by the fact that the FAST Act will barely keep up with America’s maintenance and repair needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), for example, says that the United States still falls $1.1 TRILLION short of the money it needs to improve infrastructure to acceptable levels by 2020.

AEM took a step this past week to further the conversation about our future infrastructure needs by launching the Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge. Administered by HeroX, this new, major initiative is designed to engage everyday Americans about their ideas to shape the future of America’s infrastructure.

From the HeroX website:

Over the next year, AEM and HeroX will seek to engage big thinkers from across a range of industries and backgrounds to elevate the U.S. national conversation about infrastructure. We’ll seek to engage thought leaders from across the political, business and public interest communities to solicit the most innovative ideas about how our infrastructure can adapt to our changing economy and our changing way of life.

The fact is, this conversation is more important than ever because passing the FAST Act hardly means the debate over infrastructure investment is over, or even on pause.

The fight has instead shifted to the state level. Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee are just a few of the many states that are considering how to take charge of their states’ respective infrastructure needs in the coming years.

And on Tuesday, AEM partner group TRIP (The Road Information Program) issued a new release showing the way infrastructure deficiencies affect one of those states, Tennessee.

From the report:

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Tennessee motorists a total of $5.6 billion statewide annually – as much as $1,821 per driver in some areas - due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Tennessee, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

No less than the New York Times is now taking note of the state-level battles over infrastructure. The Times published a new editorial this weekend calling on states to ensure that their user fees meet the infrastructure needs of their population.

In short, the fight to make sure our infrastructure needs are met is as vibrant as ever. And that’s why AEM and our members aren’t resting on our laurels, as important as passage of the FAST Act was last year.