WASHINGTON – Infrastructure Week is May 15-19 and more than 66 events are scheduled across the country to focus on the need to repair and build roads, bridges, ports, airports, water and sewer systems, the energy grid and other critical infrastructure.
This year’s theme is “Time To Build” and 254 affiliated organizations are involved in the effort to educate and advocate for the need for infrastructure funding, according to spokeswoman Cristina Rue.
The week formally kicks off on the morning of Monday, May 15 with a three-and-a-half-hour event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Speakers will include U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, CEO and general manager of DC Water George Hawkins, Speaker of the Utah State Legislature Gregory Hughes, and executives from several businesses and groups.
Garcetti was appointed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to chair a Task Force on Infrastructure on Friday. He will represent the mayors during the week’s events and will also work with the Trump administration and Congress on the development and passage of major infrastructure legislation during the next few months.
USCM president Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, said on Friday, “Mayor Garcetti leads a city that has been at the forefront of so many infrastructure initiatives from a massive buildout of the city and region's transit system, smart and connected lighting, an accelerated deployment of renewable energy technologies, and substantial port and freight improvements, among others. I am pleased to welcome him to this post."
Mayors recognize the importance of municipal bonds in financing infrastructure, which includes not only transportation but also energy and broadband, the USCM said in a release. “Thus, the task force will be comprised of mayors interested in various infrastructure sectors,” it said.
The mayors have been focusing on infrastructure since the November election. The USCM’s CEO and executive director Tom Cochran and top four officers, which include besides Cornett, vice president Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans and second vice president Stephen Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, S.C. met on Dec. 15 with then-President-elect Donald Trump to discuss infrastructure as well as the importance of municipal bonds. At that time, Trump told them that he would preserve the tax exemption for munis.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence spoke at USCM’s Winter Meeting and the mayors met with key infrastructure leaders at its March leadership meeting, including Chao, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.
Some events for Infrastructure Week are occurring before and after the actual week. For example, the Association of American Railroads is hosting a panel discussion called “The Power and Value of Rail in the U.S.” on Wednesday, May 10, at the Russell Senate Office Building here. Sen. John Thune R-S.D. is expected to receive an award before the discussion begins. On Sunday, May 21, the World Environmental & Water Resources Congress will be hold in Sacramento, Calif. The event is being hosted by the Environmental and Water Resources Institute.
During Infrastructure Week a number of groups are holding “Fly-ins’” to encourage members to come here to lobby administration officials and members of Congress. These groups include the National League of Cities, the American Public Transportation Association, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
The website for Infrastructure Week is also encouraging participants to tweet or write letters to Congress. “Please take a moment to write to your Member of Congress to show your support for improving America's roads, bridges, rail, ports, airports, water and sewer systems, the energy grid, and more,” the website says.
On the morning of Monday, May 15, Building America’s Future, the Philadelphia International Airport, and the Airports Council International-North America plan to hold an event on “Airport Investment” in Philadelphia. The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a luncheon panel called “Time to Build Utah” in Salt Lake City, with speakers from state agencies. Several receptions will be held to mark the week here on Wednesday, May 17. The Michigan Infrastructure Conference is being held all day Thursday, May 18, in Grand Rapids. The Build America Bureau is holding a session Friday morning, May 19, here called “Understanding the Federal Funding and Financing Toolkit.”