In November of 2018 the four sections of ASCE in Pennsylvania (Central Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) released the 2018 Pennsylvania Infrastructure Report Card via the ASCE Pennsylvania State Council. The dire grades the Commonwealth received under the category of Transportation spurred Representative Martina White into forming a House Transportation Infrastructure Task Force in July 2019. The Task Force of 10 House members, representing a diverse cross section of the state, conducted a comprehensive overview of the status of Pennsylvania’s transportation system and its funding mechanisms. The resulting House Transportation Infrastructure Task Force Report issued in the Fall of 2019 cited the 2018 Pennsylvania Infrastructure Report Card extensively and led to the creation of 10 bills implementing some of the recommendations in the Report.
In August of this year, the ASCE PA State Council decided to change its Legislative Day, traditionally held by conducting legislative visit in the Capitol of Harrisburg, to a series of virtual legislative visits. The Council hired the firm of Mulberry Public Affairs LLC (Mulberry), to provide logistical support for the effort. Mulberry has had a long-standing relationship with ASCE’s Report Card efforts. Their experience and expertise in helping to shape the meetings issue briefs, and strategically scheduling the meetings, was instrumental in authoring a letter of support for the package of bills and facilitating the virtual meetings.
Between September 1st and October 13st this Fall, a dozen ASCE members from all four Pennsylvania Sections participated in 10 virtual legislative meetings with key House and Senate members. The message the ASCE members delivered was that ASCE supports enacting the Transportation Task Force bill package as a vital first step to address the transportation funding shortfall in Pennsylvania, and would allow for critical investments in the state’s infrastructure. In particular, ASCE Pennsylvania was supportive that the legislative package:
• Expands critical innovative project delivery methods such as bundling projects and design build;
• Provides county governments more flexibility to raise revenue for vital transportation projects;
• Creates new revenue streams for local governments and county infrastructure banks;
• Extends the use of public-private partnerships for eligible municipalities; and
• Develops a pavement condition committee to ensure the safety of our state’s roads.
In addition, during meetings with Senate members, ASCE members expressed support for the passage of HB 2101 which amends the Engineer, Land Surveyor, and Geologist Registration Law that had previously passed the PA House by a unanimous vote of 202-0.
The virtual format of this year’s outreach proved to be very successful and provided both ASCE members and the Elected Officials a mechanism for open and detailed conversations. The overall tone was one of recognition of the challenges infrastructure faces in the state as well of support for creative and innovative means of addressing its needs. While Pennsylvania is facing significant economic impact due to the pandemic, and this year marks the end of this Legislative Session, the ASCE members made significant contributions to ensuring these bills either move before the end of the year or are reintroduced in next year’s session.