AASHTO Journal, 18 July 2014
President Obama on Thursday announced his intention to move forward with an initiative he hopes will garner additional transportation infrastructure investment from the private sector, creating jobs and helping provide some stability to states and local communities. The announcement came during the President’s visit to a Delaware bridge on I-495, closed last month due to structural concerns (see related AASHTO Journal story here).
The Build America Investment Initiative, according to the White House, will make it easier for private entities to assist state transportation departments and local governments in “revitalizing U.S. infrastructure.”
“Today, the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum to launch the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth by engaging with state and local governments and private sector investors to encourage collaboration, expand the market for public-private partnerships and put federal credit programs to greater use,” according to a statement from the White House released Thursday. “Starting with the transportation sector, this initiative will harness the potential of private capital to complement government funding.”
The approach includes three separate but related elements. First, the initiative includes the creation of the Build America Transportation Investment Center within the U.S. Department of Transportation, which will serve as a “one-stop shop” for state DOTs, local governments, and public and private developers and/or investors looking to use an innovative financing strategy for transportation projects. Secondly, the initiative creates the Build America Inter-agency Working Group, co-chaired by USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and consisting of “the best and brightest from the public and private sector,” which will address any barriers to private investments and partnerships in an effort to ease them. Finally, the initiative includes the creation of the Infrastructure Investment Summit, hosted by the Treasury Department on Sept. 9, in order to bring together project developers and investors with state and local officials (and federal partners) to focus on “innovative financing approaches to infrastructure and highlight other resources that support project development.”
“The President will continue to use all tools at the administration’s disposal to protect our nation’s long-term economic security where we can,” Foxx said in his Fast Lane blog. “And there is no question that America’s transportation infrastructure is one area where we have both the need and the opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact.”
The President’s announcement of the Build America Investment Initiative comes after weeks of stumping for transportation investment and a fix for the dwindling Highway Trust Fund.