Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure Must Be the Next President’s Priority
June 28, 2016
By FTI Consulting
Why Does It Always Take A Crisis To Remind Us About The Need To Invest In Our Infrastructure?
We are constantly reminded of it: Flint, Michigan’s water system; the I-35W Minnesota bridge collapse; power outages in New York; slow-moving trains in almost every American city; and just plain old gridlock on our streets every day (we spend more than 40 hours stuck in traffic each year costing us an extra 6.9 billion hours and 3.1 billion gallons of fuel totaling $160 billion).
And all of this while our population is expected to grow by 70 million over the next 30 years.
We should demand a focus on rebuilding our roads, bridges, tunnels, transit systems, trains, water systems, the electrical grid and more in the 2016 election.
Some states, such as Illinois, made those investments: a $31 billion capital program for highways, roads, bridges and other needs; a $12 billion program for an enhanced tollway system; and a $2 billion Clean Water Initiative for drinking and waste water systems.
Without a laser-like focus on upgrading our infrastructure the basic systems we depend upon will literally start to fall apart.
In transportation alone, our next President will need to figure out how to destress a national transportation network already at capacity, while addressing potential new challenges, including: remote drones filling our airspace, more renewable energy production requiring critical upgrades to our electrical grid, autonomous vehicles utilizing our roads; electric vehicles increasing our power usage; and crumbling and cramped mass transit lines with more passengers.
If we do not get ahead of these issues, the sheer weight of them will paralyze, if not collapse, the system.
Congress is to be commended for enacting a $305 billion, multi-year transportation bill in 2015. Add that to the desperately needed 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which invested nearly $50 billion in transportation needs, and we probably averted several crises.
But much more needs to be done, and the clock is ticking. And it will cost billions, if not trillions. More if we fail to act as interest rates will certainly continue to rise from historical lows.
There are big questions:
How do we fund it?
How much are we willing to pay for safe and reliable transportation?
There are many answers but we should start by bringing back some private sector offshore tax dollars – otherwise known as repatriation – into the United States. We could invest between $170-217 billion in American jobs and American infrastructure depending on the proposal. These funds could also seed a National Infrastructure Bank to finance national priority projects. And public private partnerships should be a part of that discussion where they are financially sound and appropriate.
If we begin this journey now, we will bring this nation over a dangerous bridge to a safer and economically stronger place for generations to come.
See: 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard published jointly by The Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX available at :http://d2dtl5nnlpfr0r.cloudfront.net/tti.tamu.edu/documents/mobility-scorecard-2015.pdf
 “RECOVERY ACT: Funding Used for Transportation Infrastructure Projects, but Some Requirements Proved Challenging” GAO-11-600: Published: Jun 29, 2011. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2011, available at: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-600
 Joint Committee on Taxation, Testimony of the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation Before the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means on the Repatriation of Foreign Earnings as a Funding Mechanism for a Multi-Year Highway Bill (JCX-98-15), June 24, 2015. This publication can also be found at http://www.jct.gov.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting LLP, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals, members or employees.
About The Author
Sean O’Shea is an Advisor to FTI Consulting, a Board Member of Building America’s Future, former Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Illinois and a former transportation and infrastructure advisor to then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.