Infrastructure bill success hinges on education, public-private partnerships
November 9, 2021
The House passed an infrastructure package of $550 billion late last week that the White House is now expected to sign into law.
Rick Geddes, professor and founding director of Cornell University’s Program in Infrastructure Policy, says that although the new infrastructure bill is a good step in the right direction, several changes are needed in infrastructure delivery to ensure the funds are well spent.
“Educational efforts should be focused on improving public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure delivery. Many public-sector infrastructure owners are not updated on innovations in infrastructure delivery. The bill provides $100 million for infrastructure owner capacity-building. The need for improved public-sector education on innovative delivery approaches, including value capture, public-private partnerships, and asset recycling is critical.
“There is also a critical need to shift from fossil fuel taxes to per-mile fees to pay for road infrastructure. The bill allocated $125 million to fund a mileage-based user fee pilot program for 2022-2026. That fee would replace per-gallon gas and diesel taxes, and it is important to clarify that the mileage-based used fee is a replacement for gas taxes, and not a new tax.
“The bill should encourage greater public-private cooperation which would result in faster technological adoption, and better life-cycle asset maintenance. It increases the federal cap on tax-exempt surface transportation private activity bonds (PABs) from $15 billion to $30 billion. This is not enough, but it is a step in the right direction. The bill should have also clarified the law to make clear that PABs can be used not only for new facilities but also to rebuild existing highways, bridges, etc.”