America’s infrastructure needs an overhaul. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) report card on the nation’s infrastructure gave the nation an embarrassing grade of “D+” based on unmet needs to repair and rebuild roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems, schools, rail and transit systems, and public parks.ASCE also estimates that the U.S. needs to spend $3.6 trillion in the next seven years to recover from decades of neglect and disinvestment.
- One in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years.
- 42% of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually.
- The average age of the country’s 84,000 dams is 52 years old.
- Almost half of American households lack any access to transit, and millions face irregular and undependable service that doesn’t stop near their home or workplace.
Beyond basic repair, we need to invest in an innovative 21st century infrastructure essential for a prosperous and fair economy in a globalized and hyper-connected world. Our failure to do so threatens the economic health of our nation, communities and families. Rebuilding American infrastructure is also one of the best opportunities to create tens of thousands of middle-class jobs and careers that serve as the foundation of a healthy economy and that lift families out of poverty. Rebuilding American metropolitan infrastructure is vital to meeting the transportation, housing, recreation and other needs of low-income and working-class communities in American cities across the nation.
Many local and state governments are looking at new financing arrangements – Public-Private Partnerships (or P3s) that seek to use private capital to finance public projects – to help fill the gap. But inserting private interests into the development of public infrastructure has proven to be difficult and even counterproductive when adequate care isn’t taken to protect the public interest and include equity considerations and standards. Governments often fail to fully consider the direct and indirect policy implications of these arrangements, the economic and fiscal impacts of long-term contracts and, perhaps most significantly, fail to seize opportunities to alleviate poverty. Too often cash-strapped governments have taken big risks based on unrealistic projections to justify specific infrastructure projects.
Public funding of infrastructure is well known to be the least expensive way to finance major infrastructure projects. But in light of the pressure governments face to aggressively pursue private funds for public infrastructure, we believe it is critical to clarify our goals and principles so that Public-Private Partnerships are truly structured as win-win-win propositions.
- A win for the public from a rebuilt infrastructure
- A win for the economy in creating jobs that lift families out of poverty that preserves a thriving middle class and builds infrastructure essential for efficient development, production and distribution of goods and services
- And a win that generates an adequate rate of return for double-bottom line investors