Among the most important challenges facing our nation today is the need to invest in infrastructure. Today, we are living at risk: driving on eroding roads and bridges, questioning whether our water is safe to drink, and falling behind economically. With these problems growing worse, it’s time for the Great American Rebuild.
We have an extraordinary opportunity in America?to confront the pressures being placed on our nation’s roads, water systems, ports, airports, and energy grid with available private capital. Whether you are a parent driving children to school; a college student waiting for the textbooks you ordered online; or a traveler whose flight has been grounded, investing in our infrastructure will improve all of our day-to-day lives while growing our national economy.
BPC’s Executive Council on Infrastructure laid out a transformative model for such investment in the 2016 report Bridging the Gap Together. Although the task of rebuilding America’s infrastructure is daunting, especially in an era of fiscal constraint and competing demands, opportunities exist when public officials think creatively about how to deliver infrastructure more efficiently and cost-effectively. Coupled with a commitment to robust public funding, partnering with the private sector is a promising approach to finance and deliver infrastructure projects. As a resource for public officials, we have analyzed several public-private partnerships (P3s) from across the country and laid out important lessons learned from these projects, as well as a few core principles for success.
The model for a Great American Rebuild includes sweeping reforms to how we build and finance our infrastructure, and is rooted in common sense solutions. The first steps are to ensure we don’t simply put new money into old failing systems, but rather develop a new way of doing business. We need to develop comprehensive asset inventories that account for life-cycle costs and establish a streamlined permitting process that provides transparency while protecting our environment. These process reforms will save time and money, encourage long-term planning to avoid making the past mistakes, and result in new and improved infrastructure that is capable of supporting a robust, 21st-century economy.
In addition to rebuilding our transportation, energy, and broadband systems, we must also modernize the thousands of vital water systems that Americans rely on every day. The condition of our water infrastructure is directly connected to our public health, but across the country these systems need critical repairs and upgrades. Infrastructure failures from inadequate systems or mismanagement, as seen in Flint, MI, can quickly turn into dangerous threats. Earlier this year, BPC’s Water Task Force released a series of papers outlining the specific challenges straining America’s water and wastewater systems, and offering recommendations to create a modernized system that increases innovation and safeguards affordability.
Investing in our nation’s infrastructure will improve health and safety, spur economic activity, and put our nation on track for decades of greater prosperity. The Great American Rebuild must start today.