Better Roads Staff
Two: Pass a six-year transportation bill updated to compete in the 21st-century global economy.
This one’s really an unopposed no-brainer. And the BAF emphasis on a bill that is not simply a status-quo extension is also almost universally supported, although there is some refreshing astringency in the BAF language: “The new bill must move from an essentially recycled version that thinly distributes funds based on archaic formulas and political expediency to a plan that sets clear priorities and makes hard choices . . .”
Three: Be both innovative and realistic about how to pay.
Again, the recommendation is mainstream and widely held. But it relies more heavily than most other analyses on the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private money, and wants new long-term revenue-gathering options, as do most observers in this field. It also calls for a gas tax increase “once the U.S. economy improves,” another popular position. The infrastructure bank idea has been getting some increased support. When the American Society of Civil Engineers recently estimated just how badly our infrastructure had deteriorated, the group described a crumbling system that would take a five-year investment of $2.2 trillion to adequately improve. There’s no way that sort of money comes by check from Washington. To attract private money that is out there looking for something to do (and there is a lot of it), something predictable, reliable and with a good rate of return is needed: The Infrastructure Bank is an intriguing possibility. It would loan funds or guarantee loans for major infrastructure projects that are “in the public interest,” with returns primarily from user fees such as tolls and fares. The idea not only brings private money to the table, it would create jobs.
Four: Promote accountability and innovation.
BAF is again not alone and doesn’t break new ground in this area of reform recommendation. But the plain speaking (perhaps not a surprise, given BAF’s founders) is very much to the point: “Under current transportation policy, Washington impedes local innovation while failing to impose accountability for money distributed across the country.” The BAF report calls for faster project delivery times, clearer criteria for all funding and the encouragement of state and local innovation through competitive grants. There are those, of course, who argue that more state involvement, more “flexibility,” is also a way for Washington to slide off cost (read tax) increases that will have to be made by the states, leaving clean hands in D.C.