William A. Verkest

Keeping it flowing

The role of transportation in communities served by public works professionals

William A. Verkest, P.E.
APWA President

Welcome to the July issue of the APWA Reporter, one of several media that make APWA the best resource for timely information for the public works professional. I write this during National Public Works Week, a time to reflect on the successes of our profession in delivering well-engineered and cost-effective infrastructure systems to the public. It is also a time to honor those Top Ten Public Works Leaders of the Year who were identified in the May issue. Again, gentlemen, congratulations!

This issue of the Reporter focuses on transportation.

In the hectic day-to-day lives we lead, we seldom pause to reflect on the role of transportation systems in service to our constituents except at a somewhat micro level...we're concerned with a pavement overlay project, or a problem with a malfunctioning signal set, or designing street drainage to function well in stormy weather.

In a larger sense, however, the cumulative effect of these tasks allows the economy to hum along and the public to go about their daily lives by commuting to work, taking their children to school, moving their products to market, and much more. Success is thus marked by movement—keeping traffic, water, sewage, and so many other things flowing. As long as it's flowing, all is well; as soon as it stops, troubles arise. This is why public works tends to be a "no-news-is-good-news" kind of business.

In this issue you will find a set of articles prepared by APWA's Transportation Committee, as well as by their colleagues assisting them. We hope that this particular set is useful; they were selected from about twenty proposed articles for their applicability to your daily life in this public works business of ours. Of particular interest is an article on fielding new technologies. We all look for ways to stay in touch with technology in an effort to deliver services better, quicker, and cheaper. So, not only have we highlighted new technology, we have also provided insight on how you can stay in touch with new developments more easily, given those hectic schedules I've already mentioned.

About the APWA Transportation Committee itself: The committee has been very active preparing for the 2007 Congress in San Antonio in September, as well as preparing articles for this issue and advising staff on education programs. The committee has two active subcommittees, Winter Maintenance and Sustainable Communities (formerly Smart Growth). A third subcommittee, Road Safety, has been created to advance safety given the emphasis on funding of safety programs by SAFETEA-LU. To learn more about the Transportation Committee and its activities, go to APWA's website at for more information.

Speaking of SAFETEA-LU, we already have a task force looking at its reauthorization; yes, 2009, when SAFETEA-LU expires, is just around the corner in federal government time. This task force has been busy polishing off a position statement on reauthorization of federal transportation funding. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the task force's work; few people know, even in our own profession, that revenues to the federal highway trust fund are falling and that its highway account is predicted to be in deficit in 2009. The question of how state and local projects are to be funded in the future is very much in question, and our task force members are on the forefront of that dialogue.

Projects of the Year selected
This issue of the Reporter also highlights the top public works projects of the year in five categories. The categories are disaster or emergency construction/repair, environment, historical restoration/preservation, structures and transportation. The projects selected recognize the achievements of the public works community over the past year. These awards not only highlight the excellence of the work being done by the public works community, but also provide an opportunity to make the citizens of our communities aware of that work. Agencies, consultants and contractors will be recognized for their achievements at our Congress in San Antonio.

Speaking of Congress...
The 2007 APWA Public Works Congress & Exposition (The Best Show in Public Works) is just a couple of months away. I urge you to attend and participate in this outstanding event for public works professionals. By doing so, you will be helping yourself keep abreast of the latest developments in our vital profession. In addition, your employer will benefit since its ability to respond to the needs of its constituency depends upon the knowledge and professional competence of its employees. The host committee and the City of San Antonio are going all out to make your stay one of the most pleasant experiences you will ever enjoy.

In the meantime, let's keep all of our transportation systems "flowing" to the benefit of the citizens we proudly serve.