Guest Columnist

Infrastructure should be a legislative priority

Workers from Boulder Contracting and Tri-State Crane lift one of three railroad cars before setting it into place on a new bridge being built on Lower West Branch Road above Wapsinonoc on Thursday, May 25, 2017. The old bridge, built in 1915, was deemed structurally deficient and neighbors complained about its narrow width. The new bridge is made from repurposed railroad cars. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Workers from Boulder Contracting and Tri-State Crane lift one of three railroad cars before setting it into place on a new bridge being built on Lower West Branch Road above Wapsinonoc on Thursday, May 25, 2017. The old bridge, built in 1915, was deemed structurally deficient and neighbors complained about its narrow width. The new bridge is made from repurposed railroad cars. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

In response to Governor Kim Reynolds’ Condition of the State address last week, the Iowa Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) strongly urges Reynolds to make Iowa’s infrastructure needs a high priority as the new legislative session begins. Recent national polls indicate that increasing federal infrastructure spending is one of the top priorities for Americans for the new Congress. Seventy-nine percent of people polled said it is “extremely important.” Yet, it seems to remain a backburner issue.

The need to address Iowa’s infrastructure is clear. Our population is growing, which means more people on the roads, using our parks, and going to our schools. At the same time, our infrastructure is aging and not able to support a 21st-century economy. More than 20 percent of Iowa’s 24,215 bridges are structurally deficient according to the Federal Highway Administration — one of the highest percentages in the country. Driving on roads in need of repair costs Iowa motorists $891 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — that equates to roughly $397 per motorist. Iowa drivers should soon start to see the benefits of the 10-cent fuel tax increase, which was enacted in 2015.

In addition to investing in our roads, Iowans also need to ensure their water infrastructure systems are up to par. Recent weather extremes, growing residential and industrial demands, and the growing challenge posed by excessive nutrients in the state’s waterways are straining resources among the state’s almost 1,900 water utilities. In her speech, Reynolds mentioned the water-quality bill that was enacted last year, which established a water quality infrastructure fund within the state’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Our leaders must build on that momentum. Water quality is one of the main priorities Iowa agricultural leaders want to see legislatures focus on in the beginning of this legislative session, and we need a collaborative approach that involves all stakeholders in finding a solution.

If we want to keep bringing more people into Iowa and want our economy to grow, we urge the governor to focus on investing in our state’s infrastructure this year, and we urge Iowans to reach out to their representatives and tell them to fund infrastructure in 2019. • Aaron Moniza is advocacy captain of the Iowa Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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