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Infrastructure Must-Reads, November 2

Monday, November 2, 2015

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The staff of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) 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

Committee Approves Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act
Statement of the U.S. House of Representatives, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

“The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today [10/22] unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform (STRR) Act of 2015 (H.R. 3763), a bipartisan, multi-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs.

“The STRR Act helps improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, reforms programs and refocuses those programs on addressing national priorities, maintains a strong commitment to safety, and promotes innovation to make the system and programs work better.  The proposal is fiscally responsible, provides greater flexibility and more certainty for states and local governments to address their priorities, and accelerates project delivery.  The bill also extends the deadline for U.S. railroads to implement Positive Train Control technology.” Read the bill text. 

Letter from Rep. Delaney to Chairman Shuster on funding levels

“Public investment in infrastructure, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, has fallen 54% since 1960. Instead of continuing our glide path to a third-world infrastructure, our next highway bill should reverse course and start our infrastructure comeback. A meaningful increase in our infrastructure investment will create millions of jobs and help our businesses stay competitive in the global economy.” Read the letter.

National Freight Strategic Plan
U.S. Department of Transportation

“Our nation’s freight transportation system is a vast, complex network of almost seven million miles of highways, local roads, railways, navigable waterways, and pipelines. The components of this network are linked to each other through thousands of seaports, airports, and intermodal facilities. This system accommodates the movement of raw materials and finished products from the entire spectrum of the agricultural, industrial, retail, and service sectors of our economy. More than 3.1 million Americans are employed in operating and supporting the millions of trucks, trains, aircraft, ships, and barges that traverse this network, as well as in businesses that coordinate the logistics of these operations.” Read the document. 

Low Gas Prices Could Give Toll Roads a Financial Boost
By Bill Lucia, Route Fifty

“Although toll roads can be deeply unpopular in parts of the United States, new research published on Tuesday says the financial outlook for pay-to-use highways is looking strong.

“A new report issued by Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, points to low gas prices, an uptick in the miles motorists are traveling and favorable economic conditions for toll increases as key reasons for optimism.” Read the article.

America’s transportation challenges: Proposals for reform
By Richard Geddes, American Enterprise Institute

“Politicians and civil engineers alike often refer to America’s immense surface transportation system as “our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.” Major segments of the system are in need of renovation, and its problems are exacerbated by deferred maintenance and unstable, inadequate revenue sources. New approaches to funding, financing, operating, and maintaining the US transportation system are necessary. Policymakers should adhere to three main principles: infrastructure should be paid for by those who use it, ideally through user fees; public-private partnerships should be used to streamline financing, operations, and maintenance; and public policy should complement emerging transportation technologies, especially those related to vehicle autonomy.” Read the report. 

Building Resilient States: A Framework for Agencies
Smart Growth America and Governor’s Institute

“States have a unique stake in disaster preparedness and recovery. Disasters can cost states billions of dollars, and they are always a crucial player in post-disaster clean up and recovery efforts. Yet the states vary widely in their readiness to face disasters. States could save a lot of time, money, and lives by being better prepared. Rather than focusing solely on disaster recovery, states can and should plan for long-term resilience to natural disasters and adapt to a changing environment.” Read the report.

Highway Boondoggles: Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future
U.S. PRIG Education Fund

“Americans drive no more in total now than we did in 2005, and no more on average than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term as president. The recent stagnation in driving comes on the heels of a six decade-long Driving Boom that saw steady, rapid increases in driving and congestion across the United States, along with the investment of more than $1 trillion of public money in highways.

“But even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities.” Read the report.

Beyond Repair? America’s Infrastructure Crisis Is Local
By Aaron Renn, Manhattan Institute

“America’s infrastructure discussions are dominated by debates about federal funding. But large portions of America’s roads and streets are under the jurisdiction of local governments. These locally owned roads are mostly ineligible for federal funding. So any increased federal funding of highways would have only a limited effect on the condition of local streets.

“Unlike the federal and state governments, which draw heavily on dedicated road-user fees such as gas taxes, local governments rely far more on general funding for streets. In an era of fiscal constraint, this has left many local governments, urban and rural, struggling to address street- and bridge-maintenance backlogs.” Read the report.