White House rolls out Build America Investment Initiative
July 18, 2014
It is not a secret that the Obama administration is keen on rebuilding America’s transportation infrastructure, which has long been known as the backbone of the nation’s economy.
And it is also not a secret by any means that the current state of U.S. infrastructure is in very, very rough shape. That is clear to see when driving on an interstate highway and a high percentage of bridges and other major thoroughfares, too. What’s more, the American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+, a notch above the D it received in the last Report in 2009.
That said, yesterday the White House made it clear it is losing its patience with Congress sitting on its hands while the nation’s infrastructure continues to crumble.
Speaking at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware yesterday, President Obama said he will sign a Presidential Memorandum to establish the Build America Investment Initiative, which the White House said will increase infrastructure investment and economic growth by engaging with state and local governments and private sector investors to encourage collaboration, expand the market for public-private partnerships (PPP) and leverage private capital’s potential to work in tandem with government funding.
Obama was blunt in assessing what ails the nation’s domestic transportation issues.
“First-class infrastructure attracts investment and it creates first-class jobs,” he said. “Unfortunately, right now, our investment in transportation lags behind a lot of other countries. China is doing more. Germany is doing more. They’re putting money back into building the infrastructure we need to grow over the long term.
But instead of creating jobs rebuilding our infrastructure in a predictable, sustainable way, the debate in Washington lately has been about something called the Highway Trust Fund. It’s how America is supposed to support states on transportation projects. Congress has to keep it funded, otherwise states have to put projects on hold, put construction workers back on the unemployment line.”
Obama also referenced how Congress appears to be on the verge of keeping the Highway Trust Fund intact through May 2015, with what essentially amounts to a band-aid bill that will eventually leave things in a state of flux when the end of May rolls around, which he accurately observed is “not normally how you fund infrastructure.”
As for how to finance the Build America Investment Initiative, Obama said it would be paid for in part by closing loopholes for companies shipping profits overseas and are avoiding paying their fair share in taxes.
Some of the main components of the Build America Investment Initiative include:
-the Build America Interagency Working Group, which will work with state and local governments, project developers and others to address barriers to private investments and partnerships in areas including municipal water, ports, harbors, broadband, and the electrical grid;
-the Build America Transportation Investment Center, which will serve as a one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects; and
-the Grow America Act, a four-year, $302 billion transportation reauthorization that provides increased and stable funding for the country’s highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems and ends the cycle of short-term, manufactured funding crises
“I’m happy to see that President Obama’s campaign for increased transportation investment is going to a new level,” said Mort Downey, founding chairman of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) and senior advisor at infrastructure firm Parsons-Brinkerhoff. “The current Congressional effort to find a temporary fix for Highway Trust Fund shortfalls is only a bandaid and the Administration’s focus is correctly on the need for long term action and adequate resources. As part of this investment strategy, the Administration’s decision to create institutions to help move public-private partnerships through the process and to expedite the environmental and permits process is another important step. It’s particularly relevant for the complex intermodal freight investments that have been a key part of the Coalition for America’s Gateway and Trade Corridor agenda. We look forward to helping our members take advantage of the new opportunities that will be created.”
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