National Public Works Week on the Hill descends on the Capitol City

Kristina A. Tanasichuk
Senior Manager of Government Relations
APWA Washington, D.C. Office

This year during National Public Works Week, APWA National initiated a week of events and activities to educate leaders in Congress and federal agencies on the importance of our nation's public infrastructure and public works services. Designed around APWA's legislative priorities, a combination of educational workshops and informative displays took over the Capitol for the duration of National Public Works Week.

Educational Sessions

Local and Rural Transportation
Over 50% of APWA membership hails from rural communities. Barbara Cline, Executive Director, Prairie Hills Transit, Spearfish, South Dakota and Chair of the National Rural Transit Assistance Program, joined APWA Director of Rural Transit Beth Denniston to educate legislative staff about the types of technical assistance provided by the Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) to rural areas developing and/or operating rural transit agencies. Concurrently, Mike Blankenship, President of the National LTAP Association and Program Manager of the West Virginia LTAP, joined APWA's Director of Technical Assistance Lisa Pogue to discuss the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) and the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP), administered through the Federal Highway Administration. The two programs work with cities, towns, counties and tribes to improve skills and knowledge in planning and maintaining roads and bridges. Designing safer roads, maintaining our infrastructure, and developing our workforce are LTAP/TTAP goals. LTAP reaches over 12,500 local communities and tribes. The program trained more than 122,370 people in 2002 to improve local and tribal transportation services.

Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency
As many of you know, the Administration and some in Congress have tried in recent years to eliminate some of the FEMA programs aimed at mitigation and prevention of loss from a natural disaster. Some say this is part of an overall trend of FEMA's increasing ineffectiveness. James Lee Witt, former Director of FEMA, and Judy Mueller, Director of Public Works for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia, discussed changes within FEMA since becoming part of the Department of Homeland Security. Both argued that better coordination with outside parties and organization within FEMA and DHS was necessary to make the transition successful. Both also called for the DHS not to reinvent the wheel but to "add the spoke of terrorist response" to the nation's existing "wheel" of disaster response.

Encouraging Cooperative Relationships to Achieve Regulatory Compliance
Rick Stinson, Director of Public Works from Wakefield, Massachusetts, and EPA Regional Municipal Coordinator Nancy Barmakian discussed the partnership that APWA's New England Chapter pursued with the EPA to increase regulatory compliance and decrease penalties for noncompliance. APWA was able to clearly convey that a cooperative attitude at EPA is critical to achieving national environmental goals. The Bureau of National Affairs published an excellent article about the collaboration. For copies please e-mail me at ktanasichuk@apwa.net.

Local Transportation Solutions
Director of Public Works for Richmond, Virginia and Founder and Chair of the Virginia Public Works Alliance Diane Linderman developed an educational session to explain the creation of the Alliance. The consortium of DPWs and their challenges in addressing the burgeoning transportation needs in their communities showed the level of commitment from our departments and how we are on the forefront of organizing and advocating for the transportation needs of our communities.

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) addresses the VA/DC/MD Chapter.

Member Activities
The Virginia/District of Columbia/Maryland Chapter of APWA hosted a luncheon for the chapter and other APWA members at which Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) discussed pending legislative efforts. The group also congratulated Top Ten winner John M. Keifer, City of Norfolk, Virginia. Many thanks to the chapter for attending and supporting the event.

Making It Real

Public Works Showcase
APWA's crowning achievement was

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) discusses infrastructure needs at the VA/DC/MD Chapter luncheon.
"Public Works Showcase: Running our Cities at the Speed of Light" at which several member cities and related companies and associations came to show how public works utilizes the latest technologies and services to elevate our quality of life. Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Phil Crane (R-IL), and Howard Coble (R-NC) joined the festivities to take a private tour of the showcase with APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk. Other high-level staff from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, both of which have jurisdiction over many public works-related issues, attended as well.

APWA Executive Director Peter King, Richmond Director of Public Works Diane Linderman, Top Ten Winner John Keifer, and APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk

City of Richmond, Virginia: Leading the Way to Interoperability of Communications
APWA Lifetime Member Fred Hughes and Norman Johnson from the City of Richmond DPW displayed the Public Works Department's mobile console that allows the DPW to be interoperable with other departments in case of a terrorist attack or major disaster, like the fire that ravaged part of the city March 26 (see the April 2004 issue of the APWA Reporter, p. 52, for the full story on the Richmond DPW's role in achieving interoperability). Richmond also brought a fabulous stoplight to remind legislators and staff of our connection to transportation management.

Representatives Phil Crane (R-IL) and Howard Coble (R-NC) support public works just outside Public Works Showcase in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Overland Park, Kansas: Stewards of the Public Funds
Director of Public Works Bob Lowry from the City of Overland Park, Kansas, illustrated how modern DPWs use the latest technologies to be diligent stewards of our public assets by displaying the city's retroreflectometer and their sewer camera and explaining their respective roles in asset management. Working with the District of Columbia Department of Water and Sewer's Clement Oguns, who brought D.C.'s camera, legislators and staff saw firsthand Overland Park's alligator problem and learned about how public works departments around the nation use the latest technologies to manage and make the most of public funds.

APWA Lifetime Member Fred Hughes and APWA members Chuck Henley and Norman Johnson display the Richmond DPW's interoperability console.

The camera, with footage of actual journeys through water pipes in Overland Park, showed exactly how an optical/digital zoom pan-and-tilt camera mounted on a tethered all-wheel drive tractor travels through the pipes and provides real-time footage of the condition and location of pipes.

Lowry also brought a retroreflectometer to show legislators and staff how local officials measure the reflectivity of street signs. He explained how public works officials routinely check to assure that street signage is clear and visible, helping to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities and to increase the public safety.

Bob Lowry, Director of Public Works, Overland Park, Kansas, explains the retroreflectometer to staff members from Representative George Miller's (D-CA) office.

Other Displays
Raytheon JPS Communications joined the showcase next to the City of Richmond to illustrate one of their technologies available to help achieve interoperability with different modes of communications and different departments within local government. APWA member firm 3M also joined the showcase to illustrate some of the latest technologies to make signs brighter, more visible, and help public works departments achieve their public safety goals to reduce traffic fatalities and congestion. President Dwayne Kalynchuk's firm, APWA member Stantec, Inc., joined the showcase to illustrate their role in assisting local DPWs with asset management strategies, data collection and conversion, and implementation of information systems. Lamont "Bud" Curtis from APWA member firm Parsons Brinckerhoff displayed the diversity of public works projects that local public works officials work with Parsons to accomplish—roads, streets, sewers, bridges, stormwater and municipal buildings.

Peter King explains to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) the role of public works in public safety in front of 3M's display.

Volvo Group North America also joined APWA to show its support for our local DPWs by modeling some of the trucks and construction equipment that help public works departments around the nation build city halls, build or repave streets, and haul debris away from a natural disaster or terrorist strike. And, DPWs often using Volvo heavy machinery, are hauling aggregate from one of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association's members who provide 90% of the crushed stone and 70% of the sand and gravel produced annually in the United States, used primarily in the asphalt and concrete that assist public works departments in creating roadways, sidewalks and other transportation-related infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) joined APWA's call for more investment in public infrastructure by highlighting the deteriorating condition of our infrastructure with a D+ on their recently updated Report Card on the Nation's Infrastructure. ASCE estimates that the nation needs to invest $1.3 trillion to improve, maintain, and build new capacity for our nation's infrastructure.

APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk and staff from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee learn about interoperability from Rich Nowakowski from Raytheon JPS Communications.

Thanks To All
A great deal of thanks goes out to all of our members and supporters who gave of their time and talents to make the first National Public Works Week on the Hill such a success with legislators and their staffs. See you all next year!!

Kristina A. Tanasichuk can be reached at (202) 408-9541 or at ktanasichuk@apwa.net.