The White House introduces a new infrastructure investment plan
February 20, 2013
As has been the case for more than a little while, the case for infrastructure investment remains front and center.
That was made clear by the White House this week, when it introduced “The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure.”
In a fact sheet released by the White House, officials there did not hesitate to note that since President Obama took office four years ago, “America has begun the hard work of rebuilding our infrastructure.”
Regardless of your political affiliation, there is truth in that statement. As an example, there is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided $48 billion to more than 15,000 transportation infrastructure-related projects. Other examples cited in the fact sheet include:
-American workers improving more than 350,000 miles of U.S. roads and replaced more than 20,000 bridges since early 2009 through Recovery Act and core infrastructure funds; and
-the Department of Transportation has built or improved more than 6,000 miles of rail, 40 rail stations and purchased 260 passenger cars and 105 locomotives.
“Repair and maintenance of our existing roads, bridges and public transportation systems should take priority before we consider investing in new facilities,” the White House said. “This will ensure that our cities are safer and more modern. But taxpayers shouldn’t have to shoulder the entire burden either. We also know that America works best when we’re tapping the resources and ingenuity of a vibrant private sector.”
That sentiment served as the driver for what the White House is calling the President’s infrastructure plan a “Rebuild America Partnership” that will attract private capital to build the infrastructure U.S. businesses need most.
One component of the plan is President Obama’s “fix it first” policy, which he cited during last week’s State of the Union address. This policy, according to the White House, calls for an investment of $50 billion towards U.S. transportation infrastructure, with $40 billion targeted to the most urgent upgrades and fixing highways, bridges, transit systems, and airports that need repair.
Another component is attracting private investment through what the White House calls a “Rebuild America Partnership,” which will partner federal, state, and local businesses and private capital to provide America with the best transportation, electric, water, and communications networks in the world. Major drivers of the “Rebuild America Partnership” include:
-a National Infrastructure Bank, which President Obama has called for on more than one occasion. Such a bank would leverage private and public capital to support infrastructure projects of national and regional significance and also be able to invest through loans and loan guarantees in a broad range of infrastructure projects, including transportation, energy, and water, and will operate as an independent, wholly owned government entity outside of political influence, according to the White House;
-enacting America Fast Forward Bonds, which would leverage the Recovery Act’s Build America Bonds program, which ensured all taxpayers received the best “bang for the buck” when the federal government helped states, localities, and private sector partners invest in new infrastructure; and to
-implement the TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) program, which provides Federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance.
The White House said its permitting initiative has demonstrated that it can cut federal review and permitting timelines for construction projects including highways, bridges, railways, ports, and renewable energy by several months to several years and will see time savings of 50 percent in the federal permitting and review process.
Clearly, this is a long wish list to say the least. But at the same time it bodes well for our economic future if even a portion of these initiatives can come to fruition. Even with all the obvious transportation infrastructure issues our country is currently facing, things could certainly be worse. Anything that helps the economy, put people back to work and enhance supply chain operations needs to be viewed with an open and objective mind. Let’s hope this plan is a step in the right direction.
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