Congressional Hearing Listens Intently to Sewall Transportation Expert on Critical Infrastructure Needs

Traffic engineer Lynn Frazier testified in DC in support of infrastructure funding.

March 13, 2020

OLD TOWN, ME – Lynn Frazier, P.E., P.T.O.E., A.M.ASCE testified on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, D.C. late last month about the state of the nation’s infrastructure. Frazier, experienced traffic engineer at Old Town-based Sewall, former president of ASCE, and Maine Chamber of Commerce Board member, delivered her testimony in front of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Infrastructure, which is chaired by Maine Congressman Jared Golden (D-ME).

Frazier discussed the findings of ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the 2016 Report Card for Maine’s Infrastructure, and the Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Gap for America’s Economic Future Report, all of which pointed to a greater need for infrastructure investments.

“Unfortunately, the most recent report rated the overall condition of the nation’s infrastructure as a D+, and found an investment gap of $2 trillion,” said Frazier. “As our infrastructure continues to age and investments fail to keep pace, this national gap is only widening every year. At the state level, Maine’s latest report card found that our infrastructure fares only slightly better than the national average, with the state receiving a cumulative grade of a C-.”

Frazier’s testimony continued by pointing to specific examples in Maine on impacts being seen with infrastructure investments or a lack of investments, and how they affect businesses and the GDP. Frazier cited a lack of investment in rail and its effect on paper mill towns who are trying to rebuild, and the fact that poor infrastructure is costing American families $3,400 a year, or about $9 a day because of needs being left unaddressed.

Frazier said that ASCE’s recommendation for addressing the needs and raising grades in the reports would include infrastructure legislation that fixes the Highway Trust Fund. Frazier pointed out that the gas tax has not gone up in more than 25 years, and as a result the Highway Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2022.

“Over the next five years, ASCE recommends a five cent a year gas tax increase, indexed to inflation,” recommended Frazier. “To ensure the Highway Trust Fund remains sustainable as more Electric Vehicles come online, ASCE also recommends creating an EV tax to account for their wear and tear on highways.”

Frazier also said that ASCE is suggesting continuation of regional pilot programs and creation of a national pilot program to better understand a Mileage-Based User Fee.

The hearing, titled Moving America’s Infrastructure Forward, came as work was being done by House Democrats to put together an infrastructure package based off of a $760 billion infrastructure framework that was released earlier in the year. Chairman Golden started the hearing by commenting on years of under-investment around the country resulting in roads and bridges in need of repair, and additional infrastructure problems like rolling blackouts and a lack of access to high speed internet.

“Failure to invest in our infrastructure has serious economic consequences, including lower GDP growth, lost business sales, and fewer American jobs — especially for small businesses,” said Golden.

The Framework proposed by Democrats includes $329 billion for roads and bridges, $55 billion for passenger rail, $30 billion for airport investments, $50.5 billion for wastewater infrastructure, $86 billion for expanding broadband access for rural areas, and $12 billion for a “next generation” 911 system for emergency calls, according to a summary. The Framework is not formal legislation at this stage and does not spell out how to pay for the investments, but the work being done indicates that it could be a top legislative priority in the months ahead.

Frazier’s testimony is the seventh time in two years that the ASCE has been asked to testify on the nation’s infrastructure.