Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Infrastructure & Environment News

My lack of time to write for this blog has reduced me to a compiler of infrastructure news, though such compilation has always been part of Infrastructure Watch. You can links to several alternative energy articles here.

Low Gas Prices No Problem for Solar

Low gas prices didn’t last long around here (at least they didn’t stay less than $2 per gallon for long). Either way, Tony Randall discusses why low oil prices are not a problem for the continued growth of solar power in Bloomberg.


John Oliver Thinks Infrastructure Sexy

Comedian John Oliver featured America’s infrastructure in a segment on his show Last Week Tonight. Obviously, Oliver’s tone is humorous and mocking, but he presents a thoughtful essay on the issue. You can see it on YouTube.

New Environmental Director in Nebraska

Congratulations to Jim Macy, who was recently appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to serve as director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. Macy has worked in the area of environmental regulation and compliance for decades, including leadership roles at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

States Take Lead on Infrastructure Funding

Washington senate leaders have proposed to raise the state gas tax to 11.7 cents per gallon over the next three years. The proposal would also redirect a portion of the state’s sales tax to its transportation fund (more here).

Oregon will experiment with a program of fees based on miles driven rather than a gas tax beginning this summer (more here). Many think this is a more rational way to fund highways.

In my home state of the Missouri, the governor came just short of calling for a gas tax hike as part of the state of the state address. Tax Justice Blog has a nice summary of proposals in several other states.

Baltimore Sewers Featured on Radio

The radio program Marketplace featured the Baltimore, MD, sewer system and the issues associated with a large, aging infrastructure (listen to or read the story here). Baltimore is not unique; these problems are plaguing cities across the nation.

San Francisco Opens New Hetch Hetchy Tunnel

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission opened the New Irvington Tunnel. The 3.5-mile, 9-ft diameter tunnel will carry 265 million gallons a day. It is part of the Hetch Hetchy system, which brings water from reservoirs as far away as Yosemite National Park, 167 miles. (Read more about the project at KQED.)

Water and Art

Adres Jacque will build a temporary structure that uses plants to purify water in the courtyard of MoMA PS1. Organisms in the structure will glow in the dark to provide light. See this Fast Company article for more information.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Roundup of Recent News


Roman Cement Studied

One could argue that the durable cement developed by the ancient Romans helped them build a lasting civilization because they could build lasting structures. Scientists have recreated the mix and studied its properties. You can find the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or a summary in the Washington Post.


Be An Engineer Web Site Features Women Engineers

BeAnEngineer.com has profiles of notable engineers, many of them women. Here are links to some of the profiles:

Engineers are Human, Too

Check out former ASCE president Patricia Galloway’s TED talk about the profession of engineering. Engineers care about solving real problems that help real people.

You can see Galloway’s speech here.


New Reporting Requirements Take Effect January 1

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has updated it rules related to injury reporting. Though many employers will not be affected by the rule change, it will not be required that all employers report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours to OSHA.

Find out more here.


Investing in Transportation Good for the Economy

A recent study by the Transportation Construction Coalition touted the benefits of investing in surface transportation infrastructure. These benefits include more jobs, increased incomes, and increased government revenues without tax increases.

You can read the report here, or find a summary at Fleet Owner.

60 Minutes Looks at Crumbling Infrastructure

60 Minutes ran a story on America’s aging and slowly failing transportation infrastructure. You can see the story here.

Wonders in the Sky

Slate named the U.S. Aviation Control System one of its seven wonders of the modern world. America’s airspace is one of the busiest and one of the safest.

Read more about it at Slate.


New York’s Wonderful Water

Slate named the New York City water system one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It is a massive engineered system for a massive undertaking.

Read Daniel Glass’ appreciation of the system here.

Sewers Have Limits: Can’t Handle Grease

I’ve seen shelves of congealed grease on the walls of sewage pump stations. Yes, it is gross. WAMU posted a story of the grease problem in the Washington DC sewers.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Transportation Funding: States Look To Their Own Resources

Congress has not agreed on a way to address declining fuel tax revenues, the primary source of funding road projects and maintaining existing roads. This has prompted some states to consider their own resources to raise revenues for roads.

*Michigan is considering a proposal to double its fuel tax by 2018.
*New Jersey legislators are holding hearing on a fuel tax increase.
*Some states have already increase fuel taxes: Indiana, Maryland and New Hampshire.

Other posts and articles:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Giant Sucking Sound

That giant sucking sound is the United States drinking, eating and burning Canada’s water. A 2011 report by The Council of Canadians, Leaky Exports: A Portrait of Virtual Water Trade in Canada, identifies the United States as the primary importer of virtual water from Canada.  That virtual water is traded primarily in the forms of agricultural goods, minerals, and energy resources.

Canada is the second highest gross exporter of virtual water (behind the United States), and the second highest net exporter of virtual water (behind Australia). Understandably, Canadian policy makers are concerned about preserving their water resources, especially when interests in their thirsty neighbor to the south have proposed exporting Canadian water (not virtual water, actual water).

Related posts and articles
Virtual Water

Okay, this is a bit dated. I'm catching up on a lot of reading and I have had little time to write for this blog. I appreciate the readers who still follow Infrastructure Watch. I'm looking into ways I can make this an interesting and useful blog with the time constraints I have.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Funding Infrastructure


The American Institute of Architects released Crowdfunding Architecture, a report that explored the potential of raising private funds from many people investing, loaning, or donating small sums. Crowdfunding is a growing trend in other areas, especially in the arts and product development.

Of course, public civil infrastructure requires a lot of money. The investors who might be able to put substantial sums into a project will expect a return. This is an issue for other forms of private investment in public infrastructure, often there is no revenue generated by the infrastructure to pay back investors.

What do you think? Does crowdfunding have the potential to be a serious source of funding for public infrastructure?

Related posts and articles

Roads by the Mile

IW has previously written about declining fuel tax revenues. An alternative to fuel taxes is a tax or fee based on miles driven. Oregon is planning to implement a program based on VMT (vehicle miles traveled).

Related posts and articles

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Infrastructure Nexus News

Our infrastructure for water, energy, transportation, and food is all interconnected.  Changes to one have consequences in the others.  Below are links to several articles that explore these interconnections.

Agriculture, Food & Water

Energy & Water



Water: Is There Enough?

Water scarcity is a growing issue worldwide.  There is a lot of water in the world, but issues of location, timing, quantity, quality, and use can lead to serious problems.  Here are links to some recent articles that highlight the issue.


ARRA Still News

Here is a summary of some recent news about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.


In Brief

Deposition of Air Pollutants Pollutes Water

Though our pollution control laws are structured around different media, such as air and water, pollutants can move around and have different effects to different degrees in different parts of the environment. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) describes in a report how deposition of air pollutants can affect water quality. In addition, it shows how the media-specific approach to pollution regulation makes it difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to address this issue.

Coal Here to Stay

GAO published a study of changes coming to coal-fired electrical power generation. Though aging facilities and environmental regulations will be changing it, coal is expected to remain part of the American energy portfolio.

Coal energy is an issue that demonstrates that politics is local. President Obama has faced opposition from his own party for Congressmen and Senators that represent areas that benefit from burning coal for energy (see this article from The Daily Caller).

Senate Committee Hears Navy Energy Nominee

The Senate Armed Services Committee questioned retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn as a nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment. Naval alternative energy programs were one of the issues of concern.

Government Looks at Milage Fees

IW has posted several items about the dwindling Highway Trust Fund. One idea that has been floated for raising revenues for highways is to switch from fuel taxes to fees on miles driven. GAO studied the concept for Congress. It’s report includes a review of milage fee program in several countries and pilot programs in the United States.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Briefs

It’s been a while since I’ve had to post anything on this blog, so some of this news is old. I appreciate those of you who still follow this blog. I hope I can continue to make something worthwhile for you.

Foxx Sworn in As Transportation Secretary

Anthony Foxx has been sworn in as Secretary of Transportation. Foxx was mayor of Charlotte, NC, and has had a career as an attorney and politician.

GAO Critiques Nonpoint Source Program

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that critiques the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 319 program. This program (named for the section of the Clean Water Act that authorized it) provides grants to states to undertake activities to reduce nonpoint-source pollution, including subgrants to organizations to implement improvements. They found that the program sometime failed to produce desired results and that EPA’s oversight of the program sometimes was inadequate or produced unintended undesirable results. In addition, a complementary program of the Natural Resources Conservation Service introduces practices that, by themselves, can decrease water quality because their primary intent is soil conservation.

I-5 Bridge Collapse

At this time, IW has no news to add to what has been reported on the I-5 bridge collapse. The collapse of a bridge on I-35 was one of the events that prompted the launch of this blog. IW sends it’s condolences to those affected by this event and wishes the National Transportation Safety Board a fruitful investigation.

Many Highway Projects are Categorical Exclusions for NEPA

GAO published a report on expediting highway projects. One of the interesting things was that many highway projects were considered categorical exclusions for the purpose of review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Categorical exclusions are classes of projects that, individually or collectively, have been determined by rule to have no significant environmental impact. These projects receive no or limited NEPA review.

New Appointees to Advisory Committee on Construction Safety & Health

Acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris appointed or reappointed eight members to the ACCSH. The new members are

OSHA Extends Deadline for Crane Operator Certification

The Occupational Safety and Health Agency announced its will extend the deadline for certification of crane operators to November 10, 2017. The original rule that was finalized in 2010 established a deadline next year.

Report on Rural Water Infrastructure

The GAO published a report on programs that fund drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in rural areas. In Missouri, agencies that administer the State Revolving Fund (a state-administered EPA-overseen program), Water and Waste Disposal Program (U.S. Department of Agriculture), and Community Development Block Grants Program (a state-administered program overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development) coordinate their water funding efforts.