While fierce partisanship in Washington is alive and well, an opening still exists for action on a serious plan to modernize our transportation infrastructure. No, I am not drinking Kool-Aid — we have a President who continues to talk about “going big” on a $1 trillion plan. Many in Congress are saying infrastructure investment is a priority. And Americans and businesses are weary of slow commutes and a transportation system that just can’t keep up with their needs. This sure feels like an opening.
Why not? The needs are dire.
The nation’s civil engineers estimate it will take $4.6 trillion to reverse decades of neglect. This is a daunting number indeed, but it reflects a price tag that comes with a lost generation of infrastructure upkeep and modernization.
To keep steering this debate in a positive direction, some clarity on key issues is required.
How we pay for a grand infrastructure plan is not just an academic question. It is the question. Most experts agree that we cannot toll our way to a trillion-dollar investment plan by simply opening the spigot for a slew of public-private partnerships, or P3s. The President and Congress will have to tell the voters the truth: you get the infrastructure that you pay for. Fixed payments by governments to the private sector — in addition to the potential impacts these arrangements have on public-sector workers and standards of service and safety — will not get us to a $1 trillion package either. A massive infusion of new federal funds will.
Read more in The Hill.