Officials from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Eno Center for Transportation will hold a Capitol Hill discussion on how technology may change the way we build infrastructure.
That event is part of "Infrastructure Week," which runs May 16-23 and provides infrastructure-related organizations a period to host activities that underscore the importance of making national investments that strengthen the transportation network and other infrastructure systems.
It overlaps with “National Public Works Week,” which is being observed May 15-21 by the American Public Works Association.
The AASHTO-Eno event will be 3-5 p.m. (eastern) May 16 in the hearing room of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It will focus on how disruptive technologies are changing the way we build and operate transportation infrastructure.
That is especially timely in view of new efforts by cable and internet companies to get President Obama to open up a communications spectrum band that has been reserved for intelligent transportation systems that can link vehicles to other vehicles, pedestrians and infrastructure, improving safety and reducing crashes.
Scores of smart transportation groups including AASHTO wrote Obama on May 5 urging him to stay the course with the protected spectrum band and with current schedules to test technologies and issue regulations.
According to a draft agenda, AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright is scheduled to open the session with introductory remarks. Eno's CEO, Rob Puentes, will present an overview of technology trends that relate to infrastructure projects.
Then, Wright will moderate a discussion panel that includes Carlos Braceras, director of the Utah Department of Transportation; Ken Leonard from the USDOT’s intelligent transportation system joint program office; Brian Pickerall, who is working on ITS for Booz Allen Hamilton; and David Strickland, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and now with the Venable law firm while also heading a self-driving car coalition.
Those interested in attending the event may register here.
For Infrastructure Week’s broader focus, organizers say the theme for 2016 – "Infrastructure Matters" – is meant to help explain what infrastructure means to people in the United States. It is also promoting that theme with a Twitter hashtag.
"It matters, in big ways and in small, to our country, our economy, our quality of life, our safety and our communities," the organizers' website says. "Roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, pipes, the power grid, broadband… infrastructure matters to the goods we ship and the companies that make and sell them; it matters to our daily commutes and our summer vacations, to drinking water from our faucets, to the lights in our homes, and ultimately to every aspect of our daily lives."
This week's observance comes after Congress in December passed a five-year surface transportation bill, which AASHTO and some other organizations say provided only "modest" funding increases that do not go far to reduce the large backlog of projects that could reduce congestion.
However, some candidates in this year's elections have said the nation needs to invest more in transportation and other infrastructure in coming years, holding out the possibility that the next president and Congress might consider a broad investment program.
The Infrastructure Week organizers have listed May 18 as a special "advocacy day," and said that for the first time they have a group of lawmakers from Congress to serve as co-chairs.
They are Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Reps. Garret Graves, R-La., and Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. Those lawmakers and other officials will hold a press conference that day in the T&I hearing room.
The group also urges website viewers to help spread the message. "As the 2016 elections loom and a new Congress will take up critical infrastructure debates in 2017," it says, "now is the time to tell legislators how #InfrastructureMatters to you, your stakeholders, and your community."
In addition, the public works organization on May 19 will hold a “FAST Act Implementation Transportation Roundtable” on Capitol Hill that is aimed at congressional staff and will include remarks from some members of Congress.