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Infrastructure Must-Reads, December 15

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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The staff of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Executive Council on Infrastructure share some recent publications, speeches, and testimony relevant to infrastructure policy and finance. The views expressed in these pieces do not necessarily represent the views of the council, its co-chairs, members, advisors or BPC.

Compiled by Nikki Rudnick, Aaron Klein and Jake Varn


Don’t cut transportation innovation funding
By Douglas Peterson, The Hill

“Congress has recently begun taking steps to address the nation’s significant infrastructure challenges by advancing long-term transportation legislation. It’s an important step, but the approach may have the unintended consequence of constraining innovation in financing.

“The six-year reauthorization of transportation funding before Congress would mark the first such funding measure in a decade. However, it threatens to cut funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program by as much as 80 percent, stifling the development of inventive financing solutions for rebuilding our country’s infrastructure.” Read the op-ed.


America must face crisis of crumbling infrastructure
By Secretary Henry Cisneros, The Sacramento Bee

“As our leaders in Washington and in state capitals across the nation look ahead to the new year, they will be engaged once again in the critical process of laying out their budget priorities. One area of continuing and vital importance to our economy and to the safety of our citizens is public infrastructure.

“America faces a worsening crisis of crumbling roads, aging bridges, thriving but overwhelmed airports, ports falling behind the rest of the world and electricity grids straining under ever-increasing demand. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, our nation now faces a $1 trillion infrastructure funding gap. That does not even take into account the future investment required to keep up with growing populations and to sustain a competitive economy.” Read the op-ed.


Conference Report to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act
United States House of Representatives

“The House of Representatives will vote this week on the Conference Report to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) represented the committee for the House-Senate Conference Committee, which today filed its report. The legislation, which aims to improve our nations infrastructure, includes provisions resulting from the committee’s ongoing work to improve #Safety4Drivers and ensure America’s energy security and builds on the committee’s #RecordOfSuccess.

“The Conference Report to the FAST Act:

  • Enhances transparency at NHTSA by requiring the agency to submit an annual agenda to Congress on its activities for the upcoming year.
  • Increases funding for NHTSA’s vehicle safety programs over the next five years to assist the agency in reducing fatalities, injuries, and the associated economic and societal costs resulting from motor vehicle defects and roadway accidents.”

Read the press release. Read the FAST Act Conference Report.


The Effects of the Financial Crisis on Public-Private Partnerships
By Maria Coelho, Philippe Burger, Justin Tyson, and I. Karpowicz, International Monetary Fund

“The paper investigates the impact of the global financial crisis on public-private partnerships (PPPs) and the circumstances under which providing support to new and existing projects is justified. Based on country evidence, cost of and access to finance are found to be the main channels of transmission of the financial crisis, affecting in particular pipeline PPP projects. Possible measures to help PPPs during the crisis include contract extensions, output-based subsidies, revenue enhancements and step-in rights. To limit government’s exposure to risk, while preserving private partner’s efficiency incentives, intervention measures should be consistent with the wider fiscal policy stance, be contingent on specific circumstances, and be adequately costed and budgeted. Governments should be compensated for taking on additional risk.” Read the report.


National Environmental Policy Act: Little Information Exists On NEPA Analyses
United States Government Accountability Office

“NEPA requires all federal agencies to evaluate the potential environmental effects of proposed projects—such as roads or bridges—on the human environment. Agencies prepare an EIS when a project will have a potentially significant impact on the environment. They may prepare an EA to determine whether a project will have a significant potential impact. If a project fits within a category of activities determined to have no significant impact—a CE—then an EA or an EIS is generally not necessary. The adequacy of these analyses has been a focus of litigation.

“GAO was asked to review issues related to costs, time frames, and litigation associated with completing NEPA analyses. This report describes information on the (1) number and type of NEPA analyses, (2) costs and benefits of completing those analyses, and (3) frequency and outcomes of related litigation. GAO included available information on both costs and benefits to be consistent with standard economic principles for evaluating federal programs, and selected the Departments of Defense, Energy, the Interior, and Transportation, and the USDA Forest Service for analysis because they generally complete the most NEPA analyses. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed individuals from federal agencies, academia, and professional groups with expertise in NEPA analyses and litigation. GAO’s findings are not generalizeable to agencies other than those selected.” Read the report.


PPP Motivations and Challenges for the Public Sector: Why (not) and how
European PPP Expertise Center, European Investment Bank

“Policy-makers and project procuring authorities make reference to a range of motivations to justify the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). This report seeks to identify the key motivations that have been used in communicating the rationale to use PPPs. This may be helpful for those seeking to establish, expand or improve their PPP programmes.” Read the report.


Your Input Needed: A Framework for Disclosure in Public-Private Partnership Projects
World Bank

“For too long, there has been a dearth of literature and guidance on policy and practice in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) disclosure and a wide gap in understanding the mechanics of disclosure by practitioners within governments and the private sector.

“At the request of the G20, the World Bank Group is working on a framework for public disclosure of information in PPP transactions, along with the preparation of a database on disclosure practices followed in various countries.” Read the framework. Read the questionnaire.


Transportation Infrastructure: Information on Bridge Conditions
United States Government Accountability Office

“Based on 2014 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) data, GAO determined that the nation has 610,749 bridges. Of those bridges, 23 percent are on the National Highway System (NHS), and this 23 percent comprise 58 percent of the nation’s total deck area. The deck area of a bridge is the width of the roadway surface of a bridge multiplied by the length of the bridge, which provides an indication as to the size of the bridge. Nearly 25 percent of all bridges are deficient, with 10 percent categorized as structurally deficient and 14 percent categorized as functionally obsolete. Of bridges on the NHS, 4 percent are categorized as structurally deficient while 17 percent are categorized as functionally obsolete. State agencies own about half of all bridges and over 90 percent of NHS bridges.” Read the report.


Room for Debate: Bridges, Broadband, Water Mains — What to Fix First?
By Henry Petroski, Robert Puentes, Don Fullerton, Nicol Turner-Lee, and Richard Lordan, The New York Times

“This week, many Americans will hit the road to spend time with family and friends. And when they get to their destinations, they’ll be thankful for electricity, running water and high-speed Internet service.

“But all of these systems in the United States are overburden by use, inattention, congestion and lack of funding. Which requires most urgent care: roads, bridges, power grids or something else altogether? And what’s the best way to finance it?” Read the discussion.


Presidential candidates, pay attention: A prescription for shared economic growth
By Alex Gold and David Wessel, Brookings Institution

“What if you put four high-profile economic policy wonks – two Democrats and two Republicans – on stage and asked them what one question they would put to the presidential candidates in a town hall meeting? What are the odds that they’d agree on what that one question should be?

“Well, we were surprised by the outcome when we tried just that earlier this week with Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, both veterans of the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Doug Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia University Graduate School of Business, veterans of both Bush administrations.” Read the article.

KEYWORDS: WHAT WE'RE READING, HENRY CISNEROS, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, DOUG PETERSON