It is hard to believe that another year is almost over. It is a busy time of year for most of us as well as for BSCES and ASCE.
After years of advocating for a long-term federal transportation bill that would fund projects around the country, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act was signed into law by President Obama earlier this month. This is the first long-term transportation bill passed by Congress in ten years. It allocates $305 billion over five years for surface transportation reauthorization. It will reauthorize the federal highway and public transportation programs for FY 2016 through FY 2020 and stabilize the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) during period.
The FAST Act provides $233 billion for highways, $49 billion for transit and $10 billion dedicated to federal passenger rail. By the end of the bill’s five-year duration, highway investment will rise by 15%, transit funding will grow by nearly 18%, and federal passenger rail investment will remain constant. It also creates a dedicated $1.25 billion freight program to help ensure federal investments are targeted at improving US economic competitiveness, provides $900 million per year for large-scale projects under a new freight and highways program, and allocates $199 million of funding for the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) in FY 2017.
As a result of this, Massachusetts will receive increased funding for highways, transit, planning, and safety programs. The Commonwealth’s highway account apportionment will increase from $586 million in FY 2015 to $673 million in FY 2020. Similarly, the Commonwealth’s transit apportionment will increase from $339 million to $384 million during the same period.
Much of the news internationally was dominated by the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Some progress was made. An accord was achieved to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures and strives for a limit of 1.5 degrees if possible. This agreement, however, does not mandate how much each signatory country must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as each country is allowed to set its own goal. It also does not establish a method to hold countries accountable for not keeping their commitments. Another open item was financial compensation for developing countries that have been damaged by climate change. Even though an accord was reached in Paris, individual countries must still ratify or approve the agreement in their respective countries. It will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions.
Locally, I am happy to announce that BSCES was selected to receive the ASCE History and Heritage Citation for 2015. The award will be presented at the Regions 1, 2, 4, & 5 Multi-Region Leadership Conference in Pittsburg this February. Special thanks to BSCES Vice President and Awards Committee Chair Bruce Jacobs, Hydroanalysis Inc., who spearheaded the nomination process.
There are two upcoming events that we are excited to sponsor. A roundtable panel discussion about Public Private Partnerships organized by the Engineering Management Group will be held on Thursday, January 14. See the Insert at the end of this newsletter for more information about this dinner meeting or consult the event listing that is posted on the BSCES website. On Saturday, January 16th, the Public Awareness & Outreach Committee will be sponsoring the New England Future City Competition at MassDOT’s headquarters, 10 Park Plaza in Boston. The Future City Competition is a project‐based learning experience where student teams develop a virtual city using SimCity software, research and design a solution to a city-wide issue. This year’s challenge, Waste Not, Want Not, asks students to design a waste management system for their city that is safe, environmentally sound, and energy efficient. Students then build a scale model of their city using recycled material. Volunteers (either engineers or engineering college students) are still needed to serve as competition judges. If you are interested, please contact Olivia Richards.
I would also like to call your attention to the event pages and inserts for this newsletter where you will find listings for four BSCES Program Committee-sponsored National Highway Institute courses – Bridge Inspection Refresher Training, Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges and Tunnel Safety Inspection (two offerings). All four programs will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Worcester during the months of February, April and June 2016. BSCES is pleased to make these courses available locally, saving members the cost of having to travel out of state to take these essential training programs.
In closing, I would like to thank all of our corporate sponsors, particularly this month’s featured sponsor, McMillen Jacobs Associates. We are grateful for their support of BSCES and encourage you to read their featured article about the Allison Creek Hydroelectric Design-Build Project, which was written by Sharon Crisp, Copper Valley Electric Association and Marissa Emmons, McMillen Jacobs Associates. The Geo Institute Boston Chapter is the featured group for this newsletter and I encourage you to read their featured article on page 7 which was written by ASCE Geo-Institute Boston Chapter Chair Jon Davies of Hatch Mott MacDonald. If you wish to become involved with this chapter’s executive committee, contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I want to wish all of you a very happy holiday season and best wishes for 2016!
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