Martin Manning/Daniel DeYoung interview

Editor's Note: During the 2003 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Annual Convention in Boston, ACEC Past Chairman Daniel DeYoung posed the following questions to APWA President Martin Manning concerning matters of mutual interest, such as increased federal funding for transportation and water infrastructure.

Daniel DeYoung: APWA and ACEC were successful in working together to restore a potential $8.6 billion cut in highway funding in FY 2003. As we approach the reauthorization of TEA-21, the two organizations share many common goals, first and foremost to substantially boost funding for transportation. In your view, what are the transportation infrastructure needs out there and how can we partner effectively to secure additional funding?

Martin Manning: We are proud of the successes we have achieved in working together, and I see the strength of our partnership as key in our efforts to secure a better future for our transportation system. A consistent and reliable funding source is essential to help meet our many transportation needs. TEA-21's guaranteed funding and renewals have been especially important in helping to reach the goal of a safer, more efficient transportation system.

But our communities still have tremendous needs to be met. One of those is safety. Higher investment will make our transportation system safer. Improvements need to be made to our roads, and in particular, to our rural roads where more than half of all fatal crashes occur. Also, improvements must be made to intersections, rail crossings, along with other roadway enhancements to help save lives.

Higher investment also will make our transportation system more efficient and improve our quality of life. Congestion continues to worsen in our urban areas, costing about $70 billion each year. More than a third of all roads and bridges throughout the country need improvement. Our transit systems have needs, too. For example, more than a third of our urban rail vehicles and maintenance facilities are substandard and in need of significant improvements or upgrades right now. Addressing these and other needs in reauthorization is a priority for all of us. Our commitment and the strength of all our efforts will help get the job done.

DeYoung: APWA has a policy that endorses qualifications-based selection (QBS) and has published a QBS manual. Can you discuss your views on QBS and how it benefits APWA members?

Manning: APWA has long supported quality in all public agency activities, with a focus on economy, safety, efficiency, sound construction, serviceability, maintenance and operations. The public interest is best served when governmental agencies select engineers, architects and related professional services and technical consultants for projects and studies through QBS. It fosters greater creativity and flexibility and minimizes potential for disputes.

DeYoung: We have faced initiatives on both the national and state levels that would restrict outsourcing to the private sector. Can you provide your thoughts on the value of using the private sector, and tell us how such initiatives affect APWA's members?

Manning: First, I think it is important to point out that APWA members include representatives of both the public and private sectors. At last count, 80 percent of our members are in the public sector, the vast majority being those who work in local government. The remaining 20 percent are in the all-important private sector, many of whom are ACEC members as well.

Those of us in the public sector value the experience and special expertise that our private sector colleagues bring to the table on projects. We truly view the consulting community as a partner in delivering high-quality public works services, and assuring that we continue to have the best possible infrastructure for our citizens.

As an example, in Clark County, Nevada, the County and the state ACEC Chapter worked together to develop a QBS-based Statement of Qualifications for the selection of professional service providers available on the Internet. Our Internet SOQ has helped level the playing field among firms of all sizes. The costs of participation are lower because the SOQ applications are good for 18 to 20 months and the information to be provided is reduced to the basic essentials. The SOQ provides for more than 30 kinds of professional services that will be sought by around 90 private sector applicants. The SOQ process has been a time saver and has received the support of the industry, the Nevada ACEC Chapter and the Clark County Board of County Commissioners.

APWA is guided by three basic principles in our public policy work, one of which is respect for local authority. In other words, we believe that local decisions, including the decision to outsource, are best left at the local government level. In Clark County, for instance, it is Clark County, not the State of Nevada or the United States Congress, that best knows how to effectively deliver a public works project. Public works directors and engineers have consistently demonstrated their ability to decide how best to manage and deliver projects, and we think they should be given maximum flexibility in working with the private sector.

DeYoung: Describe your views on what's being done legislatively to assist in maximizing the funding that states receive for infrastructure construction and the efforts to encourage outsourcing.

Manning: Obviously, the federal initiatives around TEA-21 are the great benefits once the authorization comes through. Some of the numbers they're now talking about are terrific, especially regarding upgrading transportation. And the kind of legislation that's already passed for water resources has been a plus. In our own jurisdiction, we're primarily into outsourcing. The majority of work associated with our capital program—and we have a master transportation program, which just passed its second initiative of about $2.7 billion—is outsourced. So we have a lot of support from our professional service providers and certainly from our contractor suppliers in this program.

DeYoung: Both APWA and ACEC have been working hard to close the water infrastructure funding gap through our mutual association with the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) and our grassroots efforts. Congress seems to be getting the message, with three funding bills having been introduced so far this year, but we are not over the hump yet. How important is water infrastructure funding to your members?

Manning: It is extremely important. We need clean and safe water to protect human health, the environment and the economy, and WIN has been a leader in bringing this issue to the forefront of public policy concerns. Congress is getting the message, and we are pleased with the support we are seeing. But we still have work to do. The funding gap for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure is in the hundreds of billions of dollars and federal investment has remained flat for a decade. Communities are struggling. They have aging and deteriorating water infrastructure that has reached or is about to reach the end of its useful life.

I think we will see positive action on this initiative. There is wide recognition of the need to address our water infrastructure needs now or risk losing the water quality, the environmental and public health gains of the last 30 years.

DeYoung: This is an interesting and volatile time in our country as we deal with the terrorism threat, and our public works people have always been on the front line when disaster strikes. How has the role that your members play in our nation's homeland security changed? What is the status of the funding to support this effort?

Manning: Protecting lives and preventing the loss of property in natural or man-made disasters has long been a core responsibility for public works and an important priority. Since we usually have little or no warning when an emergency will occur, planning and preparedness are essential.

Homeland security begins at the local level. As members of the First Responder community, all of us in public works have a role to play in support of homeland security. We are engaged in modifying and improving response plans, conducting vulnerability assessments of infrastructure, implementing new or enhanced security measures, and acquiring equipment and providing training for response.

We are pleased to see needed resources being made available to support local efforts to enhance our homeland security capabilities. Legislation in Congress has been passed to provide resources for upgrading security at wastewater treatment plants, modeled on legislation passed last year to improve security for drinking water facilities. Earlier this year, Congress approved more than $2 billion for First Responders. Local budgets, however, are stretched to the limit and homeland security needs are growing, so it is important that we have higher, sustained funding in the future.

Editor's Note: After Mr. DeYoung's interview of President Manning was concluded, President Manning asked the following question of Mr. DeYoung.

Manning: What can APWA do to help advance your causes?

DeYoung: Well, we're very interested in trying to increase the value of money that comes through the federal pipeline for infrastructure and other areas where we can work together to do that, like we've done on the reauthorization of TEA-21.

The other thing that we seem to be finding is the continual attempt to curtail any QBS involvement, which may be attached to some of these funding sources. So any help that you can give us to provide that joint support would be very helpful, because we both endorse QBS and both need the money to help the nation with its infrastructure. That would be a win-win for both of us.