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Infrastructure Week 2016 Must-Reads

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

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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, Andy Winkler and Jake Varn

Bridging the Gap Together: A New Model to Modernize U.S. Infrastructure
Bipartisan Policy Center

“America is a nation of innovators—we are inspiring new industries through interconnected devices, commercializing suborbital space flight, and advancing cures to life-threatening diseases. Yet if we hope to foster the next generation of entrepreneurs that can push our economy forward and maintain our quality of life, we must invest in our infrastructure. Wise infrastructure investments would create millions of jobs, maintain the health, safety, and security of our communities, and set our nation on track for decades of greater prosperity.

“This is a choice between action and paralysis. Not making decisions today has serious consequences for tomorrow. We are already confronting prior mistakes as our infrastructure today is failing us. We are living at risk: driving every day on eroding roadways, questioning whether our water is really safe to drink, and sending our children off to schools built for our parents’ generation. The problem is growing worse. It shouldn’t be this way in a country that for so long has led and inspired the world.” Read the report. Watch the event.

Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project
Common Good

“Common Good today released a report revealing that improved permitting for the proposed Gateway Rail Tunnel Project under the Hudson River could save taxpayers billions and avoid significant environmental harm. The report – titled “Billions for Red Tape: Focusing on the Approval Process for the Gateway Rail Tunnel Project” – outlines the economic and environmental costs of different permitting timetables and proposes approval mechanisms to reduce the cost and enhance the environmental benefits of the project.” Read the report. Read the press release.

Failure to Act: Closing the Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future
American Society of Civil Engineers

“Infrastructure is the backbone of the U.S. economy and a necessary input to every economic output. It is critical to every nation’s prosperity and the public’s health and welfare. Each Failure to Act study demonstrates that deteriorating infrastructure, long known to be a public safety issue, has a cascading impact on our nation’s economy, impacting business productivity, gross domestic product (GDP), employment, personal income, and international competitiveness.” Read the report.

Paying for local infrastructure in a new era of federalism: A state-by-state analysis
National League of Cities

“Declining funding, increasing mandates and misaligned priorities at the federal and state levels have placed responsibility squarely on local governments to maintain roads, upgrade water and wastewater systems and accommodate growing transit ridership. This represents a new federalism in which cities are taking the lead on issues historically driven by federal and state governments. Undermining this new dynamic, however, is insufficient funding authority at the local level. The ability of cities to meaningfully address growing infrastructure challenges is bound by levers authorized to them by states.” Read the report.

Performance-Based Infrastructure: An Acceleration Agenda for the United States
Beeck Center, Georgetown University

“While maintaining the nation’s aging systems of infrastructure is important, the U.S. also needs to deliver new systems to meet the demands of the 21st-century. By 2045, an additional 70 million Americans will need basic infrastructure like clean water and roads, as well as new essentials like broadband, a distributed electric grid and modern transportation systems. A decade ago, high-speed broadband was a communications luxury. Today it is a fundamental driver of economic growth, a tool for capital access and an essential element of the digital economy.” Read the report.

Obama, Bush, Clinton and Reagan DOT Chiefs Agree: America’s Infrastructure Needs Urgent Attention
By J.D. Harrison, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

“Ray LaHood, Mary Peters, Rodney Slater and James Burnley – who headed the Department of Transportation under Presidents Obama, (George W.) Bush, Clinton and Reagan, respectively – each brought their own unique vision and priorities to the agency. During an event in which all four shared the stage at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, it was clear that they still have slightly different views on certain policies concerning our nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems.

“However, they all emphatically agree on two important points: One, that America’s infrastructure challenges aren’t getting the attention and resources they need from Washington. And two, that it’s absolutely imperative that our country’s next president takes serious, lasting steps to improve our transportation networks and strengthen our nation’s critical infrastructure.” Read the article. Watch the event.

A Policymaker’s Guide to Digital Infrastructure
By Robert D. Atkinson, Daniel Castro, Stephen Ezell, Alan McQuinn, and Joshua New, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

“There are numerous barriers to realizing the economic and societal benefits of digital infrastructure. These include costly and outdated regulatory policies, a lack of public funding for investment, a scarce talent pool of individuals trained in ICT skills, and largely ill-founded fears about the privacy and security of data.

“Given these barriers, governments and the private sector should work together to develop comprehensive national strategies to facilitate more rapid development and deployment of digital infrastructures. In part this will also mean increasing public investment in digital infrastructure and reforming regulatory policies to create a friendlier environment for digital infrastructure. Finally, policymakers will need to prevent overwrought privacy concerns from slowing progress. These technologies can be deployed in ways that protect users’ privacy, despite the often shrill warnings of privacy advocates to the contrary.” Read the report.

Delivering the Goods: Recommendations for Funding a Federal Freight Program
Eno Center for Transportation

“Delivering the Goods focuses on finding a funding source for expanding and improving the national freight program established by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. While this was a crucial step forward, the United States still needs to expand the size and enhance the multimodal nature of the program.

“After much consideration, the group developed a recommendation for funding the program. It should be emphasized that none of the funding mechanisms evaluated proved perfect – all approaches have challenges. The consensus recommendation is based on the Eno Freight Working Group’s assessment that these options are the most equitable and least onerous, and the need to have a federal discretionary grant program with dedicated funding trumps the downsides of the recommended mechanisms.” Read the report.

Asset Management Guide for Small Providers
Federal Transit Administration

“The Federal Transit Administration’s 2012 Asset Management Guide focuses on the management of our nation’s transit investments and provides practical guidance for how individual agencies can apply appropriate asset management business processes to maintain their assets. This Asset Management Guide for Small Providers is a supplemental resource for small transit service providers that have fewer assets and fewer asset classes to maintain than larger agencies and substantially fewer resources to direct towards how their assets are managed. It describes what Transit Asset Management (TAM) means for small providers and is designed to assist in developing TAM plans to improve the management of transit assets while meeting the intent of Federal requirements.” Read the report.

Investing in Transportation and Preserving Fragile Environments
By Martin Wachs and Jaimee Lederman, ACCESS Magazine

“In the early 1970s, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) owned large tracts of environmentally sensitive land near Beach Lake in the Sacramento River Valley. The land, acquired in anticipation of future projects but deemed no longer necessary, was to be declared surplus property and sold according to department protocol. One enterprising staff member, however, was thinking differently. He urged Caltrans to hold on to the land and use it for environmental mitigation credit to offset damage from future transportation projects in other areas. In an unusual move, the agency adopted his creative proposal, and the experiment paid off handsomely. In the following decades, the land fulfilled mitigation requirements for 49 separate projects in 14 counties with documented cost savings to Caltrans of over $25 million.” Read the article.

The Private Sector Can Improve Our Crumbling Infrastructure
By Doug L. Peterson and Susan Story, TIME

“America was built on the spirit of pioneering, entrepreneurialism, and innovation. Decades ago, these trailblazers created an unparalleled system of highways, mass transit, ports, railroads and waterways. They moved people and goods from New York to Miami, created jobs and new cities, and allowed commerce and industries to grow across the United States. Today, that infrastructure has outlived its useful life and become unsafe, unusable, and inefficient. Yet the resources seem elusive to solve such a glaring problem.” Read the article.