Monday, 17 December 2007
By now, most of you know that ASCE pegs the price tag to fix the nation's infrastructure problems at $1.6 trillion over five years. What you may not know is that only about half of that amount is "new" money. The rest is currently allocated in budgets at the federal, state or local level.
Still a lot of money, you say? And where will it come from? Good questions. Those are the same questions that continually stymie the nation when it comes to solving the problem of funding Medicare and Social Security. Yes, those are the other trillion dollar problems.
When faced with such large problems, most people just can't cope. So they ignore them. One of the biggest challenges we face in building public support for infrastructure investment is the size of the problem. Our report card has 15 categories and the tally to raise all of the grades is huge. As one woman in focus groups conducted for ASCE said, "It's just too much to think about!"
When we talked to people across the country, we heard that we need to break this issue down into smaller pieces, and explain the problem in ways that are personally relevant. That means talking about the local impact, not national statistics. The public also wants material presented in high quality formats that entertain as well as inform.
One way ASCE is responding is by supporting the upcoming PBS documentary Liquid Assets, scheduled for broadcast in fall 2008. This documentary tells the story of our water and wastewater infrastructure and creates a compelling case for investment. As a primary outreach partner, ASCE is organizing free workshops in three locations this winter to help civil engineers and other infrastructure advocates develop community-based programs to promote public engagement.
Plan to attend a workshop, bring home some new ideas for community outreach, and think about applying for a mini-grant to support your infrastructure public awareness programs. For more information on the workshops, including dates and locations, go online or contact Katie Gorscak.