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What We’re Reading in Infrastructure, September 28

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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


Two Years Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals
By Philip K. Howard, Common Good

“Delays in approving infrastructure projects cost the nation more than twice what it would cost to fix the infrastructure, according to a new report released today by Common Good, the nonpartisan government reform coalition. Those approvals can take a decade or longer, and the report shows that a six-year delay in starting construction on public projects costs the nation over $3.7 trillion, including the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution. That’s more than double the $1.7 trillion needed through the end of this decade to modernize America’s decrepit infrastructure.” Read the press release. Read the report. Read the editorial.


Is Private Funding of Transportation Projects the Way to Get Moving?
By Meir Rinde, NJ Spotlight

“The U.S. is far behind in taking advantage of such partnerships, according to speakers at a panel discussion held in New York yesterday by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a Washington think tank. Complex procurement processes, lengthy environmental reviews, public skepticism toward privatization, political risks, agencies’ lack of authority and experience, and P3s’ relatively high costs are among the factors contributing to their paucity.

“Still, the need to pay for thousands of projects makes it imperative to bring more private investors into the field, said Eric Cantor, the former U.S. House Majority Leader and a member of BPC’s executive council on infrastructure. The BPC says its analysis found that only half of the country’s $2 trillion in infrastructure needs are funded.” Read the article.


Road to Growth: The Case for Investing in America’s Transportation Infrastructure
By The Business Roundtable

“Transportation infrastructure is the backbone of a modern, competitive and productive economy. Interrelated and mutually reinforcing transportation infrastructure systems facilitate the efficient movement of goods and services, promote trade and commerce, connect supply chains, and reduce operating costs across a diverse set of industries. In the United States, these systems are both sprawling — covering a vast physical geography — and complex — owned, operated and funded by a diverse set of entities and jurisdictions.

“This complexity makes the task of maintaining the nation’s critical infrastructure a difficult one. And yet, the need for modernization and reinvestment in these systems cannot be overstated. The highways, bridges, railways, airports, transit systems and waterways that once represented the best of modern architecture and engineering are deteriorating, inevitably worn down by age and stretched beyond capacity by the shifting demands of a modern economy and growing population.” Read the report.


Obama Administration Announces New Initiatives to Accelerate Infrastructure Projects Nationwide, Saving Time and Money While Protecting the Environment
By the U.S. Department of Transportation

“Today, the White House Office of Management and Budget, Council on Environmental Quality, and U.S. Department of Transportation announced new actions by the Obama Administration to accelerate the Nation’s critical infrastructure projects, including an enhanced Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard, new guidance to Federal agencies establishing metrics for the permitting and environmental review of infrastructure projects, and the first update in nearly 30 years to the Synchronizing Environmental Reviews for Transportation and Other Infrastructure Projects handbook (known as the Red Book) – an interagency effort spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“President Obama has been committed to building a 21st century infrastructure that will strengthen our Nation’s economy, create jobs, and improve U.S. competitiveness in the global market, while also improving environmental and community outcomes. From taking executive action through the 2011 Presidential Memorandum and 2012 Executive Order to speed infrastructure development and improve and expand permitting reform government-wide, proposing a six-year surface transportation reauthorization, the GROW AMERICA Act, which increases investment and includes a series of legislative proposals to further expand on efforts to increase the efficiency of project delivery, to releasing the 2014 comprehensive plan to modernize infrastructure permitting, the President has worked to ensure America has a first-class infrastructure”. Read the press release.


Cambridge eyes new fees to help fund T projects
By Tim Logan, The Boston Globe

“State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has suggested that real estate interests along the Green Line corridor could help pay for the extension because they stand to benefit from the new service.

“’As everyone knows, the MBTA has far more needs than we are in position to be able to fill,’”she said. ‘We always welcome overtures by both cities and folks in the private sector who are willing to make some of those investments.’

“Somerville’s economic development director, Ed O’Donnell, said that city has begun talks with US2, the group in charge of the redevelopment of Union Square, about helping to finance the Green Line project, which would include a spur to a new station in that neighborhood.” Read the article.


There Are Significant Differences Between FAA and Foreign Countries’ Processes for Operating Air Navigation Systems
By the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration

“As Congress, the Administration, and other stakeholders examine possible changes to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) organization and financing structures, OIG was asked to compare those structures to foreign nations’. Each of the four nations we examined—Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France—has maintained government control of safety and regulatory functions but has commercialized their air traffic operations via independent air navigation service providers (ANSP). Unlike FAA, the ANSPs are financially self-supporting, and they do not embark on large modernization efforts or conduct extensive aviation research and development.

“While several differences make comparisons between the U.S. aviation system and other countries’ systems difficult—such as the size and complexity of the U.S. system—there are several lessons that can be learned from examining other nations’ experiences in separating their aviation functions, including issues related to maintaining safety oversight and transitioning to the new organization.” Read the report.


As summer construction winds down, transportation jobs challenge still looms large
By Joseph Kane & Robert Puentes, Brookings Institution

“Labor Day unofficially marks the end of summer and the end of the construction season for many infrastructure projects across the country. The nation’s infrastructure needs, though, will last long after the holiday weekend, with significant implications for the labor market in particular. After all, more than 14 million people, or one out of every ten workers nationally, are involved in constructing, operating, designing, and governing the country’s infrastructure assets, including transportation, water, energy, and more. Our recent work has also found that these jobs pay more competitive wages compared to all jobs nationally—up to 30 percent more to low-income workers—expanding opportunity and filling a huge void in a critical segment of the workforce.” Read the article.


How Canada does public-private partnerships
By Christopher Swope, Citiscope

“In the last decade, Canada has become one of the world’s leaders when it comes to building infrastructure through public-private partnerships. One of those Canadian deals, to create the Canada Line light rail in Vancouver, was the subject of Citiscope’s urban innovation feature this week. But Canada also uses “PPPs” or “P3s” to fund hospitals, jails, water systems and many other types of infrastructure.

“John McBride leads an organization that is one of the reasons behind Canada’s success in this field. It’s called PPP Canada. It was created by Canada’s federal government in 2008 and given $1.2 billion ($1.1 billion U. S.) to help finance deals at the national, provincial and municipal levels. (Another $1.2 billion becomes available in April.) McBride’s staff of about 50 also acts as a sort of national think tank for pooling public knowledge and expertise on these complex transactions.” Read the interview.


A Conversation with BATIC Executive Director Andrew Right
By The National Council for Public-Private Partnerships

“The Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) is part of President Obama’s plan to increase infrastructure investment and stimulate economic growth. The U.S. Department of Transportation launched the center in July 2014 to give state and local governments more access to information about transportation funding and financing. The center also helps parties that wish to conduct public-private partnerships ensure that project design and financing elements comply with permitting requirements.

“NCPPP recently sat down with Andrew Right, counselor to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and executive director of BATIC, to discuss the resources and expertise the center provides.” Read the interview.

KEYWORDS: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ERIC CANTOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, MASSACHUSETTS, WHAT WE'RE READING