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What Could Be in a Post-Virus Infrastructure Plan?

Will there be a new round of infrastructure projects coming soon? If so, what do the proposals over past few years teach us about what may be included? Let’s explore.

by / April 12, 2020
Photo by Geoffroy Hauwen on Unsplash

A "big" infrastructure plan is coming to rebuild America.

I know, we’ve seen this movie before.

Back in April 2017, there was Trump’s Infrastructure Plan: What’s Included? “President Donald Trump held a forum this past week to discuss how he plans to implement one of his central campaign promises, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. …”

In 2018, there was this “Fact Sheet” at Whitehouse.gov, which underlines the importance of infrastructure, emphasized that the current system is not working, described four key principles and targeted $1 trillion as a goal for a variety of projects.   

In early 2019, the New York Times reported that Trump and Democrats Agree to Pursue $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan. “Democratic congressional leaders emerged from a meeting at the White House on Tuesday and announced that President Trump had agreed to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to upgrade the nation’s highways, railroads, bridges and broadband. …”

However, the impeachment proceedings delayed that infrastructure deal.   

Last summer our nation’s governors announced this initiative to address aging infrastructure. “Hogan announced a yearlong initiative to push for the repair, enhancement and modernization of our nation’s infrastructure through innovative fixes to bottlenecks, creative partnerships with private investors, streamlined project review, smarter technologies and improved cyberdefenses, as his signature effort as incoming chair of the National Governors Association. …”

And back in late February of this year, before the COVID-19 emergency became a global pandemic, the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan was highlighted again. ABC News reported that President Trump tries new approach for $1 trillion infrastructure plan. “In another election year, Trump has outlined a new $1 trillion plan for spending on roads, rails, water systems and other infrastructure. This time, the president is proposing to rely fully on federal spending. That fundamental change from his first plan drew praise from some state transportation officials and industry groups, even though Trump doesn't spell out how to pay for it all. …”

Fast-forward more than a month, and Business Insider recently reported that, as part of a stimulus plan to help the economy recover from COVID-19, Trump wants a big and bold $2 trillion infrastructure plan.   

The NY Times reported that “Democrats and President Trump are discussing a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan that could create thousands of jobs to salve an economy battered by the coronavirus. …”

Nevertheless, just a week after Trump called for massive infrastructure plan to help with virus recovery, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wanted another round of checks to families before tackling infrastructure.

What Should Be Included?

Ideas about what should be included … everyone seems to have them.

Recent articles, like this one, describe the infrastructure needs this way:

“If an infrastructure plan finally appears — be it a part of a broader stimulus plan or a separate bill — the hard lessons learned during this pandemic may dictate the priorities. Hospitals, telecommunication infrastructure and utilities may be some of the winners, experts said …”

Many government leaders are articulating an urgent stimulus need for better water systems nationwide.

Others leaders say the Surface Transportation Act should be reauthorized, and also point to other transportation projects that are “shovel-ready.”  

“As Congress prepares a plan to blunt the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least two senators are pushing for the surface transportation bill to be included in a stimulus package.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., wants congressional relief efforts to include his bill (S 2302), which would authorize $287 billion in spending on roads and bridges over five years. A spokesman for the committee said Barrasso wants to attach the measure to a subsequent stimulus bill, not the House-passed measure that was revised on Monday.

Current federal funding for highway projects is expected to lapse at the end of this fiscal year, unless Congress acts to extend or reauthorize that funding. Barrasso’s bill would increase federal highway spending by around 27 percent. …”

According to ENR.com: “The American Road & Transportation Builders Association and other groups wanted Congress to include a multiyear highway bill in the CARES Act, but they weren’t successful. At least not yet. Dean Franks, ARTBA senior vice president for congressional relations, says, ‘We’ve been told that we … should be in play for the next go-around or subsequent phases.’”

The wider set of bipartisan priorities from governors can be found here. The principles for national infrastructure investment from NGA include:

  • Create certainty and stability in long-term federal resources to ensure workforce and economic vitality through dedicated funding and financing.
  • Fix and expand existing infrastructure and invest in resiliency and security to modernize it for future generations.
  • Streamline project delivery, increase transparency, while achieving environmental protection.
  • Embrace new practices and technologies that provide innovative solutions to traditional infrastructure needs.

Several governor priorities, as articulated at the NGA winter meeting in February, are articulated in this video.

 

Another set of helpful infrastructure examples comes from Gov. Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania. Here are some of his state initiatives:

Final Thoughts

While some politicians want to offer another round of direct aid to Americans before any infrastructure funding is allocated, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette made it clear that the time for a stimulus package on infrastructure is now.

Meanwhile, the NGA issued a statement saying that state government general fund budgets need a $500 million bailout, because their revenues have dropped so much during the pandemic.   

Some readers may wonder how these infrastructure projects will impact technology and security projects. Quite a bit, in my view. Most cities in the USA want to be “smart cities,” and there is technology integrated into almost every one of these projects — even when rebuilding roads and bridged in smarter ways. This article from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) offers some noteworthy ideas to consider.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officerss (NASCIO) offers numerous resources (such as white papers and issue briefs) that can help with these 21st-century infrastructure projects, while ensuring cybersecurity and technology investments are not an afterthought.

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