Obama Rekindles Infrastructure Bank Idea

At a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee, WI, President Obama rekindled support of a permanent infrastructure bank that would leverage private, state and local investment in projects critical to the respective area's economic success. While it's a departure from traditional federally-funded infrastructure projects, the infrastructure bank concept awards financial support of proposed projects based on what will generate the best return for taxpayers.

Legislation for the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act was proposed in 2009, and it has been widely supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Construction Alliance, Building and Construction Trades Department, American Society of Civil Engineers, and Building America's Future coalition of governors and mayors across the country to mention a few.

Support of the Infrastructure Bank was part of Obama's recent proposal to create an additional $50 billion stimulus program to rebuild 150,000 miles of road, 4,000 miles of rail, and 150 miles of airport runways.

As part of the original American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funding was earmarked not only for roads and bridges, but also for high speed rail, clean energy projects, energy-efficiency support for schools and government buildings, and broadband investment around the country. The Infrastructure Bank approach is designed to best leverage that type of funding by identifying projects that will deliver the greatest economic return for a local region. It would also help local regions attract more state and local government funding, as well as private funding with the resulting benefit being clearly defined.

The Infrastructure Bank creates an investment vehicle that businesses can rally behind because they can analyze how infrastructure improvements would help their growth objectives, giving them added incentive to invest in solutions that strengthen their local economies.

Passing a new multi-year transportation bill is the linchpin to the continued investment we need to make in improving our roads and bridges, but including an Infrastructure Bank component is a very important element that will encourage private investment based on what will generate the best return for those who invest.

Allowing private investments in transportation, environmental, energy and telecommunications infrastructure projects makes sense and will attract investors as long as the government ensures a fair return for the investments made.

An Infrastructure Bank can help solve the funding challenges we face in building and maintaining a quality infrastructure, and I'm excited to see that it once again is receiving the attention it deserves as part of the solution being proposed.

Greg Udelhofen