PERSPECTIVE: Protect and maintain investments in infrastructure

While many celebrated the passage of the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill last fall, it’s important to keep in mind that these extremely rare and large injections of cash aren’t the best. approach to meeting the long-term infrastructure needs in the United States. . Designing, building, operating and maintaining infrastructure is a never-ending process that can impact communities in different ways. Recipients of funding from this infrastructure bill, especially those whose responsibilities include funding infrastructure, should take this opportunity to examine their community’s infrastructure needs, how they are funded and what actions can be taken. to implement infrastructure financing in a sustainable manner. path.

Basically, there are two options when it comes to infrastructure and long-term needs: either increase funding (usually taxes through various potential mechanisms) to meet construction and maintenance needs, or decrease the amount of infrastructure that needs to be built and maintained. How each approach is implemented (increasing funding or reducing infrastructure) will vary from community to community. But what is important is that communities need to have conversations around these topics, taking into account equity and community impacts, so that responsible and sustainable infrastructure decisions can be made.

Another important area to consider is the interconnection of different types of infrastructure. For example, electricity (regardless of the source of generation) is vital for the operation of virtually all other types of infrastructure. The infrastructure bill included $ 108 billion to upgrade the country’s power grid, which includes building new transmission lines. This is a necessary investment, but measures must be put in place so that the investment in these new lines (and other improvements) does not fall victim to long-term underfunded maintenance. The same can be said for the $ 39 million for public transit, which includes repairs to buses, rail cars and thousands of miles of track. Or the $ 65 billion for broadband, which includes infrastructure expansion.

Roads and highways always get a lot of attention because they are so visible. However, it is important to keep in mind that there is a lot of infrastructure under roads and bridges that needs to be maintained and possibly replaced. Examples include infrastructure related to water, wastewater, stormwater, communications, and electricity, among others. Repair and replacement of these underground facilities cannot always be done using minimal or no-dig (trenchless) approaches. Investments in repairing and replacing these under-road facilities may also mean that the road will need to be replaced as the project is restored. Coordination of infrastructure projects is essential to maximize the impact of infrastructure finance, minimize the impact on the public, and while striving to provide infrastructure that will serve generations to come.

A somewhat ironic part of the infrastructure bill is the $ 7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers along highway corridors. The expansion of electric vehicle charging stations is essential for the adoption and expansion of electric vehicles. However, the Highway Trust Fund and many state road funds are primarily funded by a tax on fuel (gasoline). At the federal level, the fuel tax has not been increased since 1993. Essentially, this expansion of electric vehicle charging stations will further help reduce the funding of the Highway Trust Fund in the current structure.

As new infrastructure projects move forward, especially associated with the funding of the infrastructure bill, I encourage elected officials, board members, citizens and any other stakeholder at any level of government to ask what long-term arrangements are in place to protect and sustain these investments. This infrastructure bill is the largest infrastructure investment in the United States since the interstate highway system. Let’s all work together to ensure that this investment is fully leveraged through long-term planning for the operation, maintenance and eventual replacement of infrastructure.

The views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a wide range of views in favor of securing our homeland. To submit an article for review, send an email to [email protected]

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