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SMART Act Proposed for Water Infrastructure

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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Earlier this month, United States House Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, and Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 4687, the Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology in Infrastructure Act. The bipartisan legislation aims to lower expenses, as well as increase the longevity of federally funded water-based infrastructure projects.

Both representatives are members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while its co-sponsors of the bill—Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-California and Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina—serve on the transportation panel and Science, Space and Technology Committee.

About the Legislation

Introduced on Oct. 16, the bipartisan bill inspires a more efficient procurement process regarding U.S. infrastructure by supporting innovation and open competition for the use of various materials.

Ian_Redding  /  Getty Images

Earlier this month, United States House Rep. Harley Rouda, D-California, and Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 4687, the Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology in Infrastructure Act.

Specifically, the bill intends to use taxpayer dollars responsibly by:

  • Requiring fair and open competition among suppliers of construction materials for infrastructure projects that receive federal funding; and
  • Establishing an interagency task force to develop a comprehensive report on procurement processes and open competition for construction materials.

"The SMART Infrastructure Act is capitalism at work—encouraging open competition and removing burdensome regulations while saving American taxpayers billions of dollars,” said Rouda. “As the federal government continues to fund critical infrastructure projects and Members on both sides of the aisle seek to increase that investment across the country, we should encourage modern, resilient solutions that use taxpayer dollars responsibly.”

According to a study conducted by the National Taxpayers Union, had alternative materials been selected during the procurement process for public water projects, not only would the materials have lasted longer, but they would have saved $371 billion in federal replacement costs.

“Congress is responsible for making sure we get the most out of every American taxpayer dollar it spends, and the SMART Infrastructure Act will ensure just that,” Babin added. “This bill makes a simple, but critical, reform to our federally-funded procurement and project-development process by returning authority and responsibility to the construction professionals who know best.”

Another study revealed that 240,000 water main breaks occur every year in the U.S., and $2.6 billion is wasted due to issues with aging iron pipes that contractors are forced to use due to current regulations.

The American Chemistry Council—who conducted the water main break study—also added that the open competition methods that the legislation refers to could save 26-39% in pipe cost per mile for drinking water and stormwater infrastructure.

"Ensuring open and fair competition in the acquisition of materials for infrastructure projects is critically important," said Napolitano. "It increases jobs in our districts by allowing innovative businesses to compete fairly with traditional materials, and it lowers costs for taxpayers by creating additional supply in the bidding process."

What’s Happening Now

Since its introduction to the House, H.R. 4687 – SMART Infrastructure Act has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, according to Congress.gov.

According to Transport Topics, several stakeholders including Associated Builders and Contractors, the Vinyl Institute, the Plastics Industry Association, the Leading Builders of America and the American Chemistry Council have already expressed support for the legislation.

Regarding the next steps for the legislation, Ben Brubeck, Vice President of regulatory, labor and state affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors said, “I’m not sure where it’s going to end up. It’s still early.”

Should the bill eventually be passed, it is reported that it would still take years for various states who don’t receive federal funding on infrastructure projects to follow suit.

Recent Infrastructure-Related Legislation

Earlier this year, President Donald J. Trump and Democratic congressional leaders announced the agreement of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The proposal focuses on roads, bridges, highways, water, power grids and other various infrastructure.

However, no agreement had been made on how it would be to be paid for.

In June, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would provide funding for transportation projects and bettering national resilience, as well as addressing housing and urban development.

Known as the “Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill,” the measure provides the Department of Transportation with $1 billion for multimodal endeavors in states and urban areas. The Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants would also see a $100 million increase.

Most recently, at the beginning of this month, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a program that aims to reestablish federal funding for repairs and replacements needed for local structurally deficient bridges throughout the nation.

The bipartisan Fixing America’s Bridges Act was introduced by chief sponsors of the legislation Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, and Congressman Clay Higgins, R-Louisiana. The act aims to help municipalities that struggle to afford necessary maintenance.

   

Tagged categories: Bidding; Building materials; Government; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Laws and litigation; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Spending; Taxes

Comment from Mark Bowen, (11/2/2019, 12:21 PM)

It sounds like another attempt by the plastics industry to require the use of their products for everything, since their product might not be the best for every application, but it might be the cheapest.


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