Orange County Branch Newsletter
ASCE OC Government Relations Committee
Impacts of COVID-19 September 2020
By Patrick Tierney, P.E. | Government Relations Committee Co-Chair
On August 19th, the ASCE OC Branch and Government Relations Committee hosted an online panel to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the civil engineering profession. Dr. Cris Liban, Chief Sustainability Officer at LA Metro, led the discussion as moderator. The panel brought various perspectives from within the ASCE community with panelists from:
- Caroline Sevier, American Society of Civil Engineers Director of Government Relations
- Kenneth Rosenfield, P.E., Assistant City Manager at the City of Laguna Hills, ASCE Region 9 Vice-Chair and Director-Elect
- Jeffrey Cooper, P.E., Director of Infrastructure at Irvine NV5, ASCE Region 9 Governor
2020 has been a unique year. Civil unrest has spiraled in a call for social change. The COVID-19 outbreak has closed offices and disrupted our normal travel patterns. As of August, data shows that six months into the pandemic unemployment rates are around 10% and 180,000 lives have been lost. For some people, COVID-19 has torn the world apart. Where is the civil engineering profession going? How are we impacted as a profession?
The panelists started off by discussing how election outcomes could affect infrastructure funding. Given the current unemployment rate, now would be a great time to fund the construction sector and create jobs. The lack of action by our legislators in D.C. stems from a difference in policy and focus on immediate relief packages. Republicans have focused on fiscal responsibility and streamlining project delivery. Democrats have proposed policy and legislation that centers around sustainability, equity, and resilience. Typically, infrastructure funding is a bi-partisan issue.
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Questions were asked about the impacts of COVID-19 on our industry. The general consensus was that our industry has adapted. State agency budgets have been impacted. Agencies are elongating project schedules and reducing available funds in the short term. Projects will return to full potential once funds will recover. Cities and towns are shifting to focus on maintenance and utility work since there are fewer drivers on the road. Many professionals are still working remotely. Civil engineering hasn’t been adversely affected and our adaptation has mitigated impacts.
The prospect of new infrastructure funding to create jobs through our sector could actually boost the profession. The panelists and moderators brought a call to action for civil engineers to get involved in government and politics. This will help push for infrastructure funding to be passed and to shape our world the way civil engineers see it possible. That can start with advocacy through ASCE government relations and with your voice this election season.
The talk was informative and well-attended by over 40 professionals. Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the screen. Thank you to the moderator and panelists for sharing your insights on the pandemic impacts on our industry and government relations.
About the Author
Patrick Tierney is a civil engineer at Michael Baker International in Orange County, CA. He specializes in highway transportation projects and has experience in the bridge and regional planning fields. Originally from Massachusetts, he enjoys surfing the warmer waters in Southern California. Patrick can be reached at [email protected].