Obama Team Seeks Independent Report on Economic Impact of Pending Projects

AASHTO Journal, 19 June 2015

The Obama administration is taking formal steps to commission an independent report with a fast turnaround time that would “identify the most significant transportation and water infrastructure projects that are under consideration across the country based on their potential economic impact.”

The Treasury Department issued a formal solicitation June 15 for contractor proposals to generate an “infrastructure investment report,” and said any questions should be submitted by 2 p.m. (eastern time) on June 25.

The report is to be turned in no later than six months after a contract is awarded, but solicitation also said “the ability to complete the report in a period less than six months would be viewed more favorably in the evaluation of bids.”

Transportation projects to be tabulated in that report, Treasury said, “shall include, but not be limited to, highways (including bridges and tunnels), transit systems, railways, waterways, seaports, and airports.”

The request for proposals follows an announcement last Sept. 9 by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. In remarks to an “Infrastructure Investment Summit” co-hosted by Treasury and the U.S. Department of Transportation, he said the administration planned to commission such a report.

The solicitation explained: “Treasury developed the idea for the report after concluding that a lack of information may be hindering greater investment in infrastructure.”

A number of state officials, including those representing the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, have repeatedly told members of Congress that lack of certainty about levels of federal investment in roads, bridges and transit hurts state economic growth.

In many states, infrastructure spending is a major source of capital investment, and officials emphasize that both private businesses and households depend on a reliable transportation to generate economic activity.

“Identifying specific projects with the greatest projected net economic benefits would not only call attention to their value, but also underscore the idea that infrastructure is a worthwhile, long-term investment with real benefits and returns to local and regional economies, rather than wasteful spending or a tool to create short-term jobs,” the solicitation notice said.

This report is part of the administration’s broader “Build America Investment Initiative” to increase or speed up infrastructure investment.

While any report is still months away from completion, it could potentially become a tool to help persuade member of Congress to vote for investment measures.

For instance, if Congress does not pass a long-term Highway Trust Fund reauthorization by July 31 and settles instead for another short-term extension, the Treasury-commissioned report could be finished and made public before lawmakers again need to face a trust fund deadline.

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