AASHTO Journal, 26 July 2013
The Congressional Joint Economic Committee met Wednesday for a hearing on America’s Infrastructure Challenges. Vice Chair Sen. Amy Klobachar (D-MN) presided over the hearing and the panelists included former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Co-chair of Building America’s Future; Robert Poole, director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation; Robert Puentes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; and Chris Edwards, director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.
Sen. Klobachar started the proceedings by noting that, “faulty transportation infrastructure is expected to drive up the cost of doing business in America by an estimated $430 billion in the next decade.”
The panelists focused their discussions around the use of a federal infrastructure bank to spur development and the utilization of Public-Private Partnerships to help meet the rising needs to maintain our nation’s infrastructure.
Rendell said the recent American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card “recommends over $200 billion a year to infrastructure to continue to be a first rate economic power and create well-paying jobs.” The Governor also suggested that an increase in tolling could help states.
“Let the states toll interstates. They were allowed to toll new capacity on the interstates, but they need to open it up more. I-80 cost the state of Pennsylvania $280 million a year to maintain, but they were denied tolling rights because there was no new capacity,” said Rendell.
Ultimately, the panelists said the federal government can do more to streamline requirements and speed up project delivery.
“Federal money is expensive to states. Buy America and the like are things that increase costs and are requirements with federal money,” said Poole. “Utilities are now being included in Buy America provisions, and they, in some cases, have no idea where their products come from. This is slowing projects and raising costs considerably.”
Rendell acknowledged that while MAP-21 included strategies to expedite project delivery, he believes much more can be done specifically in regards to environmental impact studies.
“Environmental impact studies have taken 7-8 years, and there is no need,” Rendell said. “Give six months. Only have very special waivers for longer waits. You must insist that things get done.”
Additional information on the hearing, including all witness testimony and a video of the event, is available here.