Absent From Political Debate: Transportation Infrastructure

National Journal engaged several experts on the state of transportation infrastructure. Both Ken Orski and Rep. Earl Blumenhauer examine different aspects of the 'Infrastructure Deficit". What can we expect to see in the next four years?

2 minute read

October 24, 2012, 6:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Innovations Briefs publisher, Ken Orski assesses where transportation infrastructure ranks not only among the candidates but also with the public. In short, there is no infrastructure crisis in the public's eyes - so don't expect to see additional expenditures for new investment other than from the increased Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Program funding.

"The absence of transportation in the political dialogue has surprised and disappointed transportation advocates", he writes.

Orski refers to a Oct. 31, 2011 Washington Post opinion by Charles Lane that shows that "people see no signs of 'crumbling infrastructure.' They trust their own eyes more than they trust the unverified claims of the experts ---and what they see is highways and transit networks that are well maintained and functioning smoothly and reliably in most of the places most of the time."

"As one senior congressional aide confided to us, "I don't see our constituents lobbying to raise the gas tax in order to spend more money on transportation."

"The bottom line: regardless of the outcome of the November elections, do not expect a boost in federal transportation spending. Instead, look for a shift from funding to financing ---shift fueled by vastly expanded TIFIA lending authority (by more than 600 percent, from $122 million in FY 2012 to $750 million in FY 2013) and by large amounts of accumulated equity in pension funds and private infrastructure investment funds, numbering some 140 at the latest count."

In the same compilation of responses to the question on "Scaling Back on Infrastructure" posed by correspondent Fawn Johnson, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer paints a more optimistic picture.

"Unlike the contentious issues that dominate the airwaves like taxation, defense, and healthcare, investments in rebuilding and renewing America's infrastructure have broad, bipartisan support with the general public and, until recently, in Congress as well", Blumenauer writes.

While the Representative doesn't identify potential new sources of federal transportation funding, he takes note of the public's willingness to invest in transportation infrastructure for their communities.

"Communities across America are investing local resources in infrastructure, with more than 85% of local transportation ballot measures succeeding so far in 2012, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence."

Thanks to Ken Orski

Friday, October 19, 2012 in National Journal

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