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ACEC News / Convention

May 7, 2019

CEO Panel Offers Restrained Optimism About Federal Infrastructure Funding Before 2020 Election

CEO Panel Offers Restrained Optimism About Federal Infrastructure Funding Before 2020 Election

ACEC Chair Manish Kothari and President/CEO Linda Bauer Darr moderated a panel of the CEOs of some of the nation's most powerful infrastructure-focused trade associations at the ACEC Convention in Washington, DC this morning.

Only two of the CEOs were confident that Congress would pass major infrastructure legislation this year, but there was a hopeful consensus that the infrastructure agenda will move forward ahead of the 2020 elections.

"Infrastructure has been elevated to be part of the public discussion," said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America. "The president has made it a priority."

Mike Toohey, president and CEO of the Waterways Council, said that leadership is crucial to winning increased infrastructure funding. "The president has to provide cover for Congress to raise the gas tax," he said. "He has to tell the voters that investing in infrastructure is a win for America."

With 30 states having passed gas tax increases in the past five years, AASHTO Executive Director Jim Tymon said, "The politics of gas tax increases is not falling along traditional partisan lines, and more importantly it hasn't cost state legislators their seats. I'm hopeful Congress will look at that and get some courage."

Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, talked about the increasing sustainability of the nation's energy infrastructure, saying that the industry has cut its emissions by 27 percent since 2005. Looking forward, he forecast a continuing decline in the use of coal and strong growth in renewable technologies, particularly utility-scale solar. "Investing in infrastructure is green," he said.  

On transit, the disruptive forces of the sharing economy and electrification of transportation are transforming how public transit agencies operate. "Agencies are thinking of themselves in a different light," said Paul Skoutelas, president and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association. "They are becoming the link between citizens and the broader array of services, whether that is Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft, or car sharing or bike sharing or even scooters."


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