Every three years I attend a huge construction equipment exhibition called CONEXPO-CON/AGG, the kind of event where your Fitbit logs tens of thousands of steps every day. This year a Tech Experience pavilion featured drones that verify landfill tipping volumes, photovoltaic pavement that keeps rain from turning into ice, remote-controlled skid steer loaders, and computerized goggles like the ones Fairfax County, Va., used to troubleshoot potential facility design flaws.

It’s all very cool but probably beyond the range of most city and county public works agencies. Not just because new technology is pricey, but because many tasks can only be done manually.

Which brings me to the Trump administration’s 2018 proposed budget. (It doesn’t really, but let’s run with it.) The White House wants to give the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs $54 billion without increasing the national debt. Therefore, $54 billion must be cut from the budgets of other federal agencies.

The president campaigned on spending $1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years, but, except for EPA’s state revolving loan and Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act programs for water and wastewater projects, there’s not much support now. U.S. DOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, for example, would be eliminated because (supposedly) another program funds the same types of projects. I went through the budget proposal department by department to tally cuts to programs related to infrastructure design, construction, and repair: in total, roughly $8 billion.

Many of you don’t use federal funding, so no matter. However, I think the proposal is interesting. If you think there’s duplication at the federal level that could be eliminated, I’d like to know what it is.

On a different note, thanks to readers in Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin for taking the time to answer the question posed in the February issue’s “Proper Plow Ballasting Lowers Liability” article. Page 40 featured a 1923 photograph of Pierce Arrow flusher equipped with a snow plow and asked what a flusher is.

This photo, sent by Clint Morton in Vernal City, Utah, clears things up. It also shows the last time transportation managers integrated new vehicle technology with older forms, a subject covered extensively here.

Flushers were water tanks with nozzles that sprayed manure and mud to the sides of the street so workers didn’t have to dodge traffic while shoveling up debris.
Flushers were water tanks with nozzles that sprayed manure and mud to the sides of the street so workers didn’t have to dodge traffic while shoveling up debris.