Complex Federal Approaches to Infrastructure Outlined in HuffPost Article

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The economics and politics of infrastructure investment by the public sector – perhaps in partnership with the private sector in public-private partnerships (PPPs) – are outlined in detail in this article by Huffington Post reporter Matt Sledge.

Sledge’s article looks at developed and developing countries such as China, Japan and the Russian Federation, which help illustrate by contrast the woefully under-funded inland transport infrastructure found in the U.S.

Key points in this article include:

  • Goals and outcomes for infrastructure funding by the federal government are lacking. According to the transportation director at the General Accounting Office, “There’s no data or information or evidence of what kind of returns we get from the federal investment dollar.”
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers calculate that deteriorating roads will diminish U.S. business growth by $240 billion between now and 2022.
  • The source of highway maintenance dollars – the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) –is based in gas consumption, which is diminishing due to improved fuel efficiencies (this topic is explained in detail on Pothole.info).
  • A Harvard economist argues that infrastructure funding should be paid for by “a local constituency.” One example he provides is airports, used not by everyone therefore suggesting a rationale for repairing runways and concourses through user fees, not local or federal tax revenues.
  • A bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate (sponsored by R-TX Kay Bailey Hutchison and D-MA John Kerry) to create an infrastructure bank differs from a PPP-based proposal from House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL). The reporter suggests that PPPs might be an effective ways of ridding infrastructure programs of pork-barrel projects that fail to achieve “authentically valuable infrastructure spending.”
  • An official from the Progressive Policy Institute suggests that projects which promote consumer spending (such as access roads to shopping malls) and cheaper imports (improving shipping ports) do not promote businesses that operate and manufacture at home in the U.S. “Tunnels and bridges between places in the United States, by contrast, would allow goods produced here to get to market more easily,” he says.

This comprehensive overview neatly encapsulates both the scope of the problem and the complexity of solutions. At the very least, it offers very good reference points to further intelligent discussions of the challenge to fix the scourge of every driver in America, the lowly (and expensive) pothole.