Civil Engineering & The Presidential Election

October 7, 2008 at 9:11 pm 2 comments

SO….  Earlier today we sent out an article to the civil engineering community highlighting the current stances of Barck Obama and John McCain on many of the infrastructure issues that directly effect the civil engineering industry.  This was a non-partisan article that was aimed at providing our readership relevant information from reliable sources in respect to the profession that we are all apart of, in one way or another.  The information that I was able to uncover included the opinions and policies of either Barack Obama or John McCain, one of which will become the next president of our great country.  Obama or McCain may or may not be the right person for the job, but one of them will be elected.  There are of course other candidates out there from the Boston Tea Party/Personal Choice Party, the Constitution Party, the Green Party, the American Independent Party, the Independent-Ecology Party, the Libertarian Party, the Prohibition Party, the Reform Party, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party; and though those candidates may have worthwhile infrastructure policy programs, my goal was to write an article, not a book.   And quite frankly, none of them have a remote chance of being elected.

I’ve received a number of phone calls and emails bringing up valid points in response to my article, but I realized that there was no real open forum to discuss the beliefs and policies of the candidates in response to the article.  Maybe you have more information to share with our readers, maybe you want to discuss one of the other candidates outside of Obama & McCain.  Or maybe I failed to note some more specific areas, as noted by one of our readers, like Off Shore Oil Drilling.  Whatever the case may be, WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed to effectively and adequately fund our infrastructure over the next five years.  $1.6 trillion.  A recent report from the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission indicated that an investment of somewhere in the ballpark of $300 billion dollars PER YEAR for the next 50 years is required.  $300 billion PER YEAR.

With our current economy tearing apart at the seams, oil and gas prices rising, and our continued war effort in Iraq, the issue of our existing and future infrastructure has taken a back seat with presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.  We are only another tragic bridge collapse or devastating hurricane away from making headlines again, and it is unfortunate that neither candidate has recently considered the issue of our infrastructure head on.  With the help of some colleagues, I was able to scour the Internet for any information I could to provide you with the candidates’ current stances in relation to the United States infrastructure.  Here is what we discovered:

In Relation to Bridges & Highways:

Popular Mechanics was unable to locate any policy reports from the McCain camp regarding infrastructure. McCain did address the Minnesota Bridge Collapse, stating that it was not a matter of not having the funding to commit to the backlog of bridge inspection, repair and construction, but rather a misallocation of the funds toward wasteful earmarks.  Obama, on the other hand, supports creation of an independent entity referred to as the National Infrastructure Reinvestment bank, which plans to invest $60 billion in transportation infrastructure over the next 10 years.  This allocation of funds is on top of other federal infrastructure financing (Sofge).  The projects created by this funding will generate up to 2 million new jobs per year and will infuse $35 billion per year in economic activity (Obama).

AP reports that John McCain supports an $8 billion funding package for federal highway construction.  Some of these projects include pork barrel spending, and McCain has stated time and time again that if he becomes president, he will veto any bill that is presented to him that includes earmarks. This may be a tough pill to swallow since many construction projects are promoted and supported by individual lawmakers.  It is McCain’s goal to fight for highway funding that is not laden with pork (Espo). McCain did support a federal gas tax holiday to bring down gas prices, but critics believe that though it would lessen the financial burden on the people, it would take away the taxes that help fund highway and infrastructure projects (Crawley).

Obama proposes a $50 billion bill to fund infrastructure and emergency aid to state governments.  One half of the total funds will be allocated per state government officials; the other $25 billion will go directly toward road, bridge and other public works projects.  McCain believes this proposal to be a short-term answer, but indicated he would certainly consider signing any valid stimulus plan that Congress would set before him should he become president (Hall).

In Relation to Energy:

McCain is an avid supporter of nuclear energy and the aggressive buildout of nuclear power plants across the country, proposing to build 45 new plants by 2030.  McCain is also in support of clean-coal energy, offering up to $2 billion per year in research until the year 2024.  He also supports other alternative energies.  Obama believes in staunch investment in biofuels, renewable energy and clean coal plants, $150 billion worth over 10 years (Crawley).

In Relation to Rail & Mass Transit:

Though McCain opposes federal funding for Amtrak, he recognizes Amtrak’s importance in our country.  With that, McCain did support legislation that would back long-term capital funding for passenger rail.  Obama supports continued capital funding for Amtrak and is for the development of a high-speed corridor between major cities located within 500 miles of each other.  Obama also calls for legislation for funding for freight rail and mass transit expansion (Crawley).

In Relation to Dams & Levees:

Obama has scribed a policy paper on rebuilding the hurricane-stricken gulf coast that highlights his plans to build out and repair a significant levee and pumping system. McCain, though clearly recognizing the dire situation in the gulf coast region, has not formally prepared a flood management plan of his own.  Neither candidate has addressed a plan for the crumbling levee system in the Midwest (Sofge).

In Relation to Sustainable Communities:

Though neither candidate shows any real transparency on this topic, Obama wants to consider smart growth opportunities to build more livable and sustainable communities (Obama).

For years now we have been hearing about, reading about and witnessing firsthand the deterioration of our infrastructure across the country.  It is time for the next president and Congress to take action.

Whatever your stance is on the issues, whatever party you are a member of, make sure you get out and vote on November 4th!

Works Cited:

Sofge, Erik. “Green Tech Plans Hide Obama-McCain Disparity on Infrastructure.” Popular Mechanics  25 September 2008.  27 September 2008 <>

Obama, Barack. “Urban Policy.” 27 September 2008 <>

Espo, David. “McCain Supports Highway Bill.”  Associated Press  12 September 2008. 27 September 2008 <>

Hall, Kevin. “McCain, Obama Differ on Ways to Help Main Street.” The Kansas City Star 27 September 2008. 28 September 2008 <>

Crawley, John.  “FACTBOX:  McCain, Obama Infrastructure Priorities.” Reuters 30 June 2008. 27 September 2008 <>


Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Issues, Failing US Infrastructure, Uncategorized, US Infrastructure. Tags: , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. aepcentral  |  October 22, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    In following up to this blog entry, I found this article recently posted on the CNN website which gives provides some relevant information as well. Here is the link:


  • 2. John Lesnik  |  October 9, 2008 at 1:51 am

    In this election cycle I think it matters not at all which candidate favors one particular program that may seem to favor civil engineers. Civil engineers need to be reminded that the private sector is the only source of wealth and captial formation. Public works spending can assist the private sector, but public spending creates no wealth in the absence of a vibrant private economy. Therefore, a candidate that promises increased spending across a broad range of programs that we may favor will be helpless to actually deliver the goods if the economy collapses under an onslaught of higher taxes and regulation. The favored illustration of public works spending under Roosevelt in the 1930s clearly does not apply today. After World War I the U.S. was the world’s largest creditor nation. The Federal government had huge capital reserves and was able to spend (waste?) them on the New Deal. We now know this actually extended the Great Depression. In contrast, we are today the world’s biggest debtor. The Federal government has few of the options available 70 years ago since it can only spend money if foreign investors can be convinced to buy the debt that would be created by infrastructure spending. That’s looks like an increasingly dicey proposition.


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