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Hard Facts

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Hard Facts is a podcast that examines the best way to pay for the nation’s transportation infrastructure. We explore money-saving tools available to planners and builders and the case for using them through interviews with members of Congress, the Administration, and industry.

Hard Facts is a podcast that examines the best way to pay for the nation’s transportation infrastructure. We explore money-saving tools available to planners and builders and the case for using them through interviews with members of Congress, the Administration, and industry.
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Hard Facts is a podcast that examines the best way to pay for the nation’s transportation infrastructure. We explore money-saving tools available to planners and builders and the case for using them through interviews with members of Congress, the Administration, and industry.






EXCLUSIVE: Federal Highways Chief Bullish on 2020

The nation’s top highway official is optimistic Washington can make progress on a new funding plan for transportation infrastructure in 2020. Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason explains the Trump Administration’s view of the on-going federal funding debate and expresses optimism negotiators can beat a September deadline, in a Hard Facts exclusive season finale conversation. Link: Real Growth for 2020 Transportation Construction Market, ARTBA Chief Economist Says


A Gift from Congress

Brandye Hendrickson, Deputy Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, discusses the impact of the decision on infrastructure work, and her organization’s focus on highway safety concerns. Links: Presidential Candidates Will Talk Infrastructure at Forum Politico: Presidential Candidates’ Tracker on Transportation Issues Congress Repeals $7.6B Highway Funding Rescission


The Road Ahead

Washington may be focused with impeachment, but there's another "I" word that also warrants our attention. That's "I" for infrastructure. Are we on the road to nowhere, or is there hope for the future of surface transportation in America? Tanya Snyder, transportation reporter for Politico Pro stops by to discuss the policy challenges ahead for regulating rapidly evolving...


When the Levee Breaks

There are 90,000 dams in the U.S. across 44 states. Just over 1,600 of them pose potential risks, according to a recent Associated Press investigation. Risk and water levels are only rising as we see more extreme rainfall amidst intense storms that challenge the strength of our nation’s dams and levees. On this episode, we talk to Mark Ogden, technical specialist and project manager for the Association of State Dam Safety Officials about the current state of America’s aquatic...


The Future of the Interstate

It is no secret that America’s worn out interstate highway infrastructure has surpassed its intended shelf life. Our current highway system can’t keep up with increasing severe weather events and rising levels of congestion. Infrastructure investment is necessary, yet Congress still struggles to find a sustainable funding mechanism despite the astronomical cost to the economy in the event of system failure. On this episode, Neil Pedersen, Executive Director of the Transportation Research...


Reading Economic Tea Leaves

Interest rates. Public sector investment. Jobs. Tariffs. Consumer confidence. These and other factors weigh on the minds of economists sorting through the tea leaves that are leading indicators of spending, orders for manufactured goods, and government contracts. On this episode, Ed Sullivan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist in the Market Intelligence Group for the Portland Cement Association, shares the details of his annual Fall forecast for the economy and cement consumption.


More Transportation Dollars? Just Say No!

Groups come from all over America to ask Congress and the Administration for more money. The needs are many and the dollars few, so the push, often times, is intense. The federal government plays a key role in so many initiatives across all 50 states, but there aren’t many that are greater than the lead Uncle Sam takes when it comes to funding transportation. The lagging condition of our infrastructure is well known. Perhaps it’s the magnitude of the need that makes one transportation...


Emergency Weather Advice

Emergency managers know what it takes to recover from natural disasters. That’s why they’re telling states, counties, and cities to act now to prepare for storms, wildfires, and other calamities. David Paulison, the longtime chief of Miami Dade Fire Rescue, rose to national prominence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when he was tapped by President George W. Bush to help New Orleans and other storm-ravaged communities recover while serving the nation as its FEMA chief. Now he advises...


How to Overhaul Federal Funding Plans

Washington is mesmerized by discussions of the spending that could be included in the next transportation reauthorization. Observers for more than a year have speculated about dollar amounts, paying little or no attention to the formulas that send federal bucks to the states each year. Researchers for the non-profit, non-partisan Eno Center for Transportation want Congress to update the way money is spent. The think-tank recently published a report focused on the outdated funding formulas...


Transportation Dollars Move the U.S. Economy

Just how much impact does transportation spending have on the U.S. economy? The influential Business Roundtable, a Washington, D.C.-based organization representing the CEOs of America’s top corporations, aimed to answer that question when it released earlier this year its economic analysis of transportation infrastructure investments. As Congress continues to work this fall on a new surface reauthorization bill, we’re talking about the report, Delivering for America, with Matt Sonnesyn, the...


Resilient Policy Ideas

While work on the next surface reauthorization bill is still in its early stages, many see it as an opportunity to push for policies that would encourage resiliency, changing the way we plan, design, fund, and maintain facilities. The goal is to make transportation, communications, water, and energy investments more durable in the face of increasingly strong weather events and rising sea levels. The bi-partisan Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, based in the Washington, D.C. metro...


Congress Weighs Concrete Bills

Climate and resiliency are hot topics in Washington and New York this week, with a second hearing on the subject in D.C. tomorrow and world leaders discussing the issue, among others, at United Nations meetings through Friday. Last week’s House congressional panel addressed steps needed to reduce indutrial emissions. The topic is similar at tomorrow’s hearing of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. In this episode, we examine resiliency and the legislative agenda impacting the...


BREAKING: Congress Hears Testimony on Industry Emissions

A House panel in Washington, D.C. today heard from the cement and concrete industry about steps needed to improve industrial emissions. Dr. Jeremy Gregory, Executive Director of the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub, testified before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On this episode, we hear Gregory’s testimony, a few of the questions he fielded from lawmakers, and also the view shared by another hearing panelist, Ross Eisenberg, Vice President of Energy and Resources...


Inside the Infrastructure Report Card

Not a day goes by without someone reminding us that our roads, bridges, and other transportation facilities get a failing grade from America’s civil engineers. You probably know the grade, because it’s quoted in almost every story on the topic. We’ve heard people on this podcast talk about it. So we thought we’d talk to the people who issued it. This week, we explore the Infrastructure Report Card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, with Anna Denecke, ASCE’s Director of...


Concrete Keeps Its Cool!

A recent guest column published in Time Magazine missed the mark in its criticisms of concrete as a building material. While concrete is known for its ability to reflect heat, the author, who also happened to be promoting a book, claimed otherwise. The journalist also expressed surprise that concrete eventually has to be replaced, apparently confused when citing a study giving America’s infrastructure a D+, the report a commentary on the lack of investment in public facilities, not the...


Ready to Mix it Up!

With Congress still away on summer vacation, we’re taking stock of the people who make up the cement and concrete industry. A few months ago we profiled several members of the North American Concrete Alliance. But we didn’t get to all of them before the legislative stove got hot. So we’re playing catch up now, with Mike Philipps, the new President of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. Here’s the conversation about policy, traffic congestion, and mixing trucks.


It’s all about the Benjamins!

The excitement over Senate EPW committee passage of a bill addressing surface transportation needs remains, but the reality is the unanimous vote to move the plan before the August break is only one step in a very long process, with the Finance Committee now tasked with the tough job of finding the money to fund the proposal. Jon Deuser counsels the Portland Cement Association and others on transportation legislation and policy, drawing from almost two decades of experience in the Senate...


States: Senators Pass 1st Test

States plan, design, build, and help fund the nation’s infrastructure. So how are they feeling about the Senate’s first attempt at a six-year reauthorization plan? We posed that question to this week’s guest, Carlos Braceras, President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation.


We Have a Surface Bill!

It’s been a little more than a week since the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee delivered on a promise to unveil and pass America’s first look at the next national surface transportation reauthorization bill. The bill, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, puts down a marker for spending and stakes out positions on several policy issues, including resiliency. Rachel Derby, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Portland Cement Association (PCA), and...


Weather: There’s an Impact!

Weather is always a consideration when engineers design, and contractors build, our nation’s roads and bridges. But it’s becoming a bigger issue as the climate we’ve known forever has begun to change and grow stronger with each storm event. Our guest is no stranger to the impacts of weather on the things we build. Pam Russell is a veteran journalist who covered Hurricane Katrina for the New Orleans Times Picayune. Today she writes for Engineering News Record. We’ve gone through her most...