US political leaders must support policies to boost engineering

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White House director of infrastructure implementation, Mitch Landrieu, speaking at a recent Accelerating Infrastructure Summit to review the progress made since the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

ACEC marks one-year anniversary of landmark US Infrastructure Act with a plea to Washington politicians.

Following the US midterm elections earlier this month, the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) highlighted the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

ACEC said that the anniversary was a good opportunity to remind lawmakers and the public about the continued bipartisan support for addressing the US’s infrastructure needs.

The implementation of the IIJA, including tens of billions of dollars in funds made available to state and local agencies for improvements in transportation, water, environmental protection and clean energy, demonstrates what can be accomplished when lawmakers, private industry and public agencies work together for the common good, says ACEC.

Well-designed, well-built, and well-maintained infrastructure can solve many of America’s problems, including addressing the climate challenge, providing mobility and access to work opportunities and enhancing public health and safety.

In a statement on their website, ACEC said: “The passage of the IIJA and the early stages of implementation have highlighted the essential role engineers play in sustaining a growing population and mitigating future climate and other risks. Through IIJA, our civil, electrical, chemical, mechanical and environmental engineers are helping to rebuild and modernise infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams, levees, waterways, ports, energy and communications systems, industrial processes, buildings, and water supply and treatment facilities.”

Highlighting the key role of engineers in delivering the aims of the IIJA, ACEC stated: “America’s engineers are mission-driven to make the built environment better. Every component of the hundreds of programmes and billions of dollars of investment in the IIJA start with sound engineering by trained, dedicated engineering professionals.”

The implementation of the IIJA has also highlighted the constraints on the engineering workforce. “As historic as the bill is, there simply aren’t enough engineers to do the work the IIJA sets out to do. 82,000 new engineers will be required to take full advantage of the bill and right now, the engineering and design services sector is facing near full employment,” says ACEC.

According to the lobby group, which represents 52 state and regional councils representing more than 600,000 engineers, architects, land surveyors and other specialists in the US, political leaders in Washington need to support policies that incentivise STEM education and immigration policies that attract talented foreign engineers many of whom have graduated from American universities. “We are also working with state and local agencies to ensure that procurement and contracting policies allow our firms to attract, recruit and retain more skilled professionals,” say ACEC.

As the implementation of this historic law in the US continues over the next several years, success will depend on the ability to quickly move projects through the regulatory approval process. Adequate funding will be essential, but timely delivery of infrastructure to meet the challenges of climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience also depend on efficient regulatory review.

As ACEC highlights: “The administration has committed to these goals, but more can and must be done. We also encourage regulators to effectively balance the desire to bolster the domestic manufacturing base through Build America, Buy America policies while recognising supply chain challenges and the availability of certain construction materials and manufactured products essential to modernising our infrastructure.

“The construction industry and state and local agencies responsible for managing the majority of the IIJA funds need better guidance and a transparent process for efficiently processing necessary waivers. ACEC and our member firms are committed to deliver on the promised benefits of the transformative IIJA investments now and in the years to come.”