LAS VEGAS — The dire condition of the nation’s infrastructure was the focus of a Feb. 16 forum in Las Vegas that featured leading Democratic presidential candidates who touted their individual plans to solve the nation’s chronic infrastructure funding dilemma.

Taking part in the forum were Senator Amy Klobuchar; former vice president Joe Biden; South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and hedge fund financier Tom Steyer.

Sponsored by the nonprofit United for Infrastructure, the forum was held at the University of Nevada/Las Vegas, broadcast and livestreamed by C-SPAN, and moderated by the Wall Street Journal’s Jerry Seib and Jeanne Cummings. The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) was a member of the forum host committee which also included labor unions and other organizations representing millions of voters.

Sunday’s forum was the first event of its kind to focus on a singular issue of extreme importance to voters: how the candidates for the White House would lead Congress and the nation towards an infrastructure designed for America’s future, not its past. 

The need for leadership is evident at every turn. Congress’ years-long failure to address Highway Trust Fund shortfalls has led to the annual gap between Trust Fund revenues and annual expenditures projected to grow to $20 billion by 2021. The Army Corps of Engineers is experiencing a backlog of projects totaling $100 billion for essential water improvements. Forty-four percent of major roads are in poor condition, and 23 percent of bridges are structurally deficient. Climate change and severe weather increasingly tests the resiliency of our critical water, power and transportation systems.

America’s engineering industry will play an essential role in designing a future where our roads, bridges, airports, and ports are not only in a state of good repair but poised to take advantage of new opportunities for trade and innovations in safety, resiliency, and connectivity. ACEC’s member firms have the talent and expertise to transform the public space as long as there is vision from the top to let it happen.

“Voters are tired of playing the game of lowered expectations when the rubber meets the road on infrastructure,” said Linda Bauer Darr, president and CEO, American Council of Engineers. “Every election, we are told that improving our roads, airports, and water systems is a top priority only to see the issue swept under the rug. That has to change, and I want to remind the candidates that we need bold and consistent leadership in the White House if we are ever going to resolve the damage done by years of underinvestment.”  

“The next president – whoever she or he is - will have the opportunity to grasp the moment and design an infrastructure policy that not only addresses our backlog of existing projects but appropriately prepares us for the connected cities of tomorrow,” said Mitch Simpler, board chair, ACEC. “Today’s forum is just the start of the conversation about how we will get there and America’s engineering industry will be listening closely.”

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