Better Roads Staff | August 5, 2012
Inside the highway and bridge industries
The ups/downs of an infrastructure bank
Would an infrastrsucture bank work? Would it be a major factor in funding vital future work and development?
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released a report looking into its possibilities.
A federal infrastructure bank could play a limited role in enhancing investment in surface transportation projects, says CBO, by:
• Providing new federal subsidies (in the form of loans or loan guarantees) to a limited number of large projects and
• Allowing the benefits of potential projects to be more readily compared in a competitive selection process.
A potential advantage of such a bank, according to the report, is that it could encourage sponsors of projects to charge users for the benefits they receive, lowering project subsidies to a small percentage of total costs. It could also overcome certain barriers to the financing of multijurisdictional or multimodal projects.
But, says CBO, a key limitation of providing funding through a federal infrastructure bank is that only some surface transportation projects would be good candidates for such funding, because most projects do not involve tolls or other mechanisms to collect funds directly from project users or other beneficiaries.
A second drawback is that the support offered for surface transportation by most proposed infrastructure banks would not differ substantially from the loans and loan guarantees already offered by the Department of Transportation (DOT) through its Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
But keep this in mind: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that we need another $13 billion a year spent on transporation infrastructrure to keep it in its present state and $83 billion a year to do everything we should be doing.
Existing U.S. state infrastructure banks “generally function as independent entities,” says CBO, but a federal IB would be part of the federal government.
“From an environmental perspective transit doesn’t have much to recommend it.”
- National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett
50th and Last
Hawaii now has a law requiring motorists to move over a lane, or at least slow down, when approaching stopped emergency vehicles. It was the only state not to have a “move over” bill. Reports say the death of two police officers while on traffic stops made the difference this year after attempts in the past stalled.
Missouri has expanded its 2002 “Slow Down and Move Over” law that protects law enforcement and emergency response vehicles parked on the side of the road. The new law requires motorists to slow down or change lanes when approaching these vehicles, and now also includes MoDOT vehicles parked with amber and white lights flashing.
Cleaning Up Our Alleys
D.C. has its first “green” alleys, where stormwater seeps into the permeable surface rather than running into storm drains – helping cut one of the major causes of waterway pollution.
“The water disappears, but it’s not a magic trick — it’s smart, green, cutting-edge urban design that puts the District at the forefront of sustainable practices nationwide,” D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray says. “Improving the health of our rivers and streams starts in our neighborhoods with creative solutions like these green alleys.”
Green Alley projects across the country are an effective and innovative way to manage stormwater runoff and pollution.
Chicago leading the alley way
In Chicago, for example, more than 80 green alleys have been successfully completed since 2006. The Chicago DOT is extremely proud of the lead they have taken in this work.
The D.C. Green Alley Pilot is part of the Mayor’s “Sustainable DC” initiative that he says is designed to make the District the nation’s greenest, healthiest, most livable city.
The alley project is a partnership between the District DOT and the District Department of the Environment.
Many alleys include a significant amount of impervious surface, but most do not have stormwater controls (such as water quality catch basins or grate inlets). To mitigate this, green alleys use sustainable design and Low Impact Development (LID) techniques that reduce the amount of stormwater and pollutants entering the sewer system, streams and rivers by increasing water filtration and treatment on site. In Washington, D.C., the city’s DOT constructed its pilot green alleys by removing gravel, impervious concrete, or asphalt surfaces and replacing them with a variety of permeable concrete, asphalt or brick paver materials and grid systems in areas where the storm sewer and sanitary sewers are separated.
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