As I watched my son tear around the living room, not a care in the world (except for Teddy Grahams and Daniel Tiger), I can’t help but wonder what the future has in store for him. As civil engineers, what are we doing to make sure that our children have the same, or better, quality of life that we have?
The nation’s infrastructure, as a whole, is in dire need of additional funding. This is evidenced by ASCE’s 2017 Report Card, which gave it a cumulative grade of D+. What does this mean? It means the general state of infrastructure is poor and at risk. Many elements are reaching the end of their service life and there is a strong risk of failure. Decades of underinvestment have created a tipping point where we need meaningful action. ASCE has examined the economic impacts of deteriorating infrastructure, which can be found in their latest Failure to Act series.
The key solutions to this problem are investment, leadership/planning, and preparing for the future:
- Perhaps the most important of these three key solutions is investment. We need increased, long-term, consistent investment to close the infrastructure funding gap. The nation has not yet been seen the true cost of maintaining and replacing the infrastructure that was constructed over the past 40 to 50 years. The public needs to accept that there will be an increase in rates and fees in an acceptable form that is both sustainable and equitable.
- To accomplish the investment solution, we need leadership that spearheads the effort to make sure the investments are spent judiciously while also planning for future life cycle costs. This leadership is required at all levels, including local, state, and federal government, private sector, business, labor, and non-profits. This will result in a clear vision for the future of our infrastructure.
- Lastly, we need to prepare for the future of infrastructure by embracing emerging technologies, supporting R&D into innovative materials, and making sure the new infrastructure is resilient hazardous events.
What can we do as individuals to help shape this future?
- Familiarize yourself with the issues.
- Start a conversation with friends and co-workers or on social media.
- Attend public hearings and board meetings.
- Write a letter your local, state, or national elected officials to voice your thoughts.
- Become an ASCE Key Contact to keep up with developing public policies.
- Help your governmental clients understand the importance infrastructure funding and life-cycle costs.
As a Section, we recently voted to approve Greg Schroder (current Public Affairs committee chair) as the Wisconsin State Advocacy Captain. Greg will serve as the liaison between the Section and ASCE Government Relations staff. We also have a goal to revive the Wisconsin State Report Card, last updated in 2007, and are currently looking for motivated members to assist in the effort.
Lastly, Engineers Week this year is from February 18 – 24. Help spread the word and celebrate the engineering profession with us!
Justin R. Bilskemper, P.E., M.ASCE
*February 2018 President’s Message
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