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Deep Cuts in State Funding for Highway Construction

The Montana Department of Transportation has announced that at least $127 million in highway construction projects will be delayed until May 2017 due to lack of funds. The Governor’s budget not only fails to shore up the budget, but cuts it $200 million more from the FY18 budget.  Link —

http://www.bigskybusiness.com/index.php/government/montana/4630-lack-of-funds-delays-highway-construction-projects

Water is the universal lifeblood….

A clean and reliable water source for drinking, cooking, growing food, and basic hygiene needs provides the foundation for healthy communities and vibrant economies.

According to the Montana chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Montana has over 5,300 miles of water distribution and transmission piping – a longer stretch than driving from Billings to Miami . . . and back.

In 2011, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality identified an immediate water system financial need of $885 million.  This estimated investment deficit is based on three critical elements:  age of the facilities, capacity demands, and increasing regulatory requirements.

Age:  Engineers estimate that the structural service life of most pipes is approximately 75 years (see attached photos of 75 to 100 year old pipe replaced in Cascade).  Many of Montana’s small to medium-sized communities were platted in the early 1900’s and much of their water piping has never been replaced, and older and mCorroded Pipeore established communities have water pipes that date back to the late 1800’s.  In response to a survey conducted by ASCE, 90 percent of responding communities reported that they are replacing none, or very little of their water distribution system on an annual basis, even while experiencing major leaks.  Some small communities experience in excess of 10 leaks per year, and one larger community reported 15 major and 40 minor leaks in 2013.

Capacity:  Population growth puts additional strains on infrastructure.  Of the communities responding to the ASCE poll, 35 percent said their water treatment systems had zero additional capacity.  Over 60 percent reported less than five years of remaining capacity.  Only five percent suggested they had 20 years of capacity in their systems.  Similar figures were reported for the water distribution systems themselves.

Regulatory Compliance:  Of the 700 community water systems in Montana 158 (23 %) are not currently in compliance with regulatory requirements associated with the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The total cost to replace Montana’s entire water and wastewater infrastructure is estimated to range between $12 billion and $15 billion.  ASCE estimates that the total annual reinvestment by Montana communities is currently around $165 million, statewide.  At this rate of investment, it will take 90 years to replace our aging water infrastructure – this includes both pipelines (with a structural lifespan of 75 years) and water treatment systems (with a service life of approximately 25 years).

Obviously, not all of our water systems need near-term replacement, but with an “immediate” need identified at $885 million (in 2011) and annual expenditures at only $165 million, our current funding pattern will continue to fall woefully short of ever-mounting maintenance, repair, upgrade and replacement needs.

The Infrastructure Coalition is working on a non-partisan legislative package that will help to address some of our most pressing infrastructure needs.  Please join us in expressing your support for comprehensive and sustainable legislation that will begin to address critical infrastructure needs, keep our talented workforce fully employed, and shore up the foundations of a healthy economy in Montana.

About the Montana Infrastructure Coalition

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is an association of over 70 public and private organizations involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our most critical infrastructure in Montana.  The purpose of this Coalition is to help change public policy and improve the manner in which State and local governments build and maintain these essential community assets.

Leveraging Federal Dollars and Meeting Local Needs

The Montana Department of Transportation has an annual budget of over $710 million.  Over $390 million of that money comes from the Federal government by way of grants through the Federal Highway Administration.  The monies from the Feds are doled out on a project-by-project basis with the State of Montana responsible for approximately 13 percent of the project cost, and the Feds picking up 87 percent of the cost.

Under current projections, the Montana Department of Transportation is expected to fall $27 million short of budget projections, putting many projects and the federal highway matching dollars at risk.

Since the first quarter of this year, MDT has been suggesting that lower-priority projects on secondary highways would be cut, while projects on the Interstate and Primary systems would remain largely unaffected.  (Daily Inter Lake, Mar. 2, 2016)

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition believes that safe and efficient roads and bridges are fundamental elements of a healthy community and a robust economy.  Leveraging the full amount of federal highway dollars available should be a top priority for every legislature.  However, even if the federal match can be made in 2017, the question lingers on what other secondary or local roadway project needs will remain unaddressed.

An average of over 200 drivers are killed on Montana’s highways each year.  Montana’s traffic fatality rate is third highest in the nation, with fatality rates on non-Interstate rural roads standing at more than two-and-a-half times the rate on all other roads and highways in the state.  Yet simple safety improvements – like adding turn lanes, removing or shielding obstacles, adding or improving medians, widening lanes, widening and paving shoulders, improving intersection layout, and providing better road markings and upgrading or installing traffic signals – may be the first projects to be delayed under budget shortfalls.

Funding for such basic safety improvements shouldn’t be an afterthought, and need not be subjected to political negotiations at the end of each legislative session.  It is essential that Montana fully leverage the federal monies available, but we cannot ignore the critical safety needs on local roadways.  With better planning, we don’t have to choose which comes first – we can do both.

Please join the Montana Infrastructure Coalition in expressing our support for a more thoughtful and sustainable approach to local road and bridge funding, and to consistently leveraging federal highway dollars to maintain our state and federal highways across Montana.

 

Crumbling Infrastructure

Last week, the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) notified the public of a significant safety concern with bridge decks in the I-15/I-90 interchange in Butte.  (See attached video for illustration of the structural decay).  These structures were built in 1963, and are nearing the end of their expected 50-year lifespan.  At 53 years old, these structures exceed the average age of American highway bridges by 11 years.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), over 68,800 bridges – representing more than 11 percent of total highway bridges in the U.S. – are classified as “structurally deficient.”  (see graphic below)  Structurally deficient bridges require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.  According to FHWA’s 2009 statistics, $70.9 billion is needed to address the current backlog of deficient bridges.

Allowing roads and bridges to slip into disrepair ultimately costs state and local governments billions more than the cost of regular, timely repair.  Over a 25-year period, deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost more than three times as much as preventative repairs.  The backlog also increases safety risks, hinders economic prosperity and significantly burdens taxpayers.

Transportation for America suggests that “preservation efforts can also extend the expected service life of a road for an additional 18 years, preventing the need for major reconstruction or replacement. In addition to the safety imperative, investing in the construction, expansion and repair of our nation’s transportation infrastructure creates jobs today while laying the foundation for long-term economic prosperity.  Repair work on roads and bridges generates 16 percent more jobs than construction of new bridges and roads.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that “America is currently spending more failing to act on our investment gap than we would to close it.  Inefficient infrastructure is costing every household $9.30 a day. However, if every family instead invested an additional $3.00 a day per household, we could close the infrastructure investment gap in 10 years.”

This emergency project is a clear priority, but we cannot ignore the looming threat of our aging roads and bridges and the exponentially mounting costs associated with doing nothing.  The Infrastructure Coalition intends to make transportation infrastructure investment a priority in the 2017 legislative session to ensure adequate funding levels to address the most critical roadway and bridge needs at state and local levels.

About the Montana Infrastructure Coalition– The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is an association of over 60 public and private organizations involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our most critical infrastructure in Montana.  The purpose of this Coalition is to help change public policy and improve the manner in which State and local governments build and maintain these essential community assets.

Montana Near Top in Construction Job Losses

Regardless of the manner in which one supports an investment of public monies into infrastructure projects and whether it is good economic policy, the economic effect of not investing in infrastructure is indisputable. Information released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) this week shows that Montana joins just 13 other states and the District of Columbia in job losses in the construction sector over the last year.

We all understand the importance of clean water and safe roads in every community, but training and retaining the labor force required to maintain those facilities is also necessary to their continuing operation, and Montana is losing ground.

Montana ranks fourth in the real number of construction jobs lost (-1,900) and second in percentage of construction jobs lost over the past 12 months (-7.2 percent). While several factors are at play, the lack of a consistent and reliable flow of infrastructure projects has resulted in layoffs and relocations. As work slows here, Montana contractors seek work in neighboring states or lose their employees to nearby markets with more construction activity like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California.

The Infrastructure Coalition http://mtinfrastructure.org/ is working on a non-partisan legislative package that will help to address some of our most pressing infrastructure needs. Please join us in expressing your support for comprehensive and sustainable legislation that will begin to address critical infrastructure needs, keep our talented workforce fully employed, and shore up the foundations of a healthy economy in Montana.

About the Montana Infrastructure Coalition http://mtinfrastructure.org/

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is an association of over 60 public and private organizations involved in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our most critical infrastructure in Montana. The purpose of this Coalition is to help change public policy and improve the manner in which State and local governments build and maintain these essential community assets.

The Coalition met with Butte Officials

The Coalition met with Butte Officials

The Montana Infrastructure Coalition presented the coalition’s goals to Butte officials Monday July 11 that illustrated the need to direct more money to local roads, sewers and other public infrastructure in Montana.

If you didn’t know, the Montana Infrastructure Coalition began this spring of 2016, after a $150 million bill funding infrastructure and building projects across the state died in the Montana Legislature.

Tim Burton, executive director of the Montana League of Cities and Towns, said the new group was nonpartisan, had raised $100,000 already rather easily and 50 organizations already had joined. He said there was interest in Butte and other cities and towns to get on board.

  • The 2017 legislative session won’t start until January, but the Coalition will initiate its mission early.
  • Key points of the presentation include:
  • The Coalition is not a political organization, it is a research and education organization
  • The Coalition is a long-term enterprise
  • Identify adequately fund for the most pressing local needs for roads, bridges, sewers, water and other infrastructure
  • All but three of Montana’s 129 incorporated cities and towns belong to the Coalition
  • The bill that failed in 2015 would have provided at least $150 million in cash and bonding authority for local government infrastructure and state long-range building projects
  • The bill would also arrange a state loan up to $10 million to help pay for construction of a long-sought veterans home in Butte
  • Give cities with more weight more priority in getting state dollars
  • Examine all ways of funding local infrastructure projects and decide which ones to pursue in 2017 and beyond
  • Suggest the establishment of a committee on local government funding that would meet between sessions to keep issues in the spotlight
  • Get people advocated for local public infrastructure funding on the same page
  • Develop ground up support for infrastructure needs

Read the Montana Standard Article by Mike Smith