Barry LePatner, Founder, LePatner & Associates, LLP
In announcing his new $2 trillion infrastructure plan, President Biden stated, “It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America.” Yes, the plan calls for 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads, repairs to the 10 most economically important bridges in the country, the elimination of lead pipes from the nation’s water supplies, and a promise to better protect our weakened electrical grid from hackers, but there is a need for serious discussion about just how much good will result from this expenditure over the next eight years.
For example, our nation currently has well over 5,000 bridges that, like the collapsed I-35W in Minnesota, are both structurally deficient and fracture critical, meaning they could collapse if only one part of the bridge fails. We have more than 4,000 dams that are so seriously compromised that they threaten failures that would drown tens of thousands of people in the states living downstream. Our drinking water system is losing billions of gallons of drinkable water that cannot be totally addressed by the funds allocated. And the plan allocates billions for the ailing Amtrak rail system that runs tracks along the Atlantic Coast that, according to estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be underwater from rising waters due to climate change by 2050.
This plan is critically important to remediating our ailing infrastructure. But it should be viewed as only a jump start to much more needed funding to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century.
Mike Bellaman, President & CEO, Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC)
In analyzing the U.S. infrastructure projects that would be included in an infrastructure bill, it is important to answer three questions:
- What criteria is used to pick the projects? Are the criteria established through a political lens or a taxpayer value creation lens?
- How are the projects funded? The projects could be funded through government taxes, private investment, public-private partnerships or a mixture of all the above.
- What are the rules and regulations for competing for and delivering the work? Will these restrict or stimulate free-market behaviors?
This infrastructure bill will pass once there is an agreement on how to answer these three questions. A bill that will best serve America is one that answers these questions in a way that creates affordable, valuable and financially viable, long-lasting projects built through fair and open competition.