Suggested Solutions for Fixing Ailing Infrastructure

The gas tax is a hotly debated topic both by politicians and the construction industry. With the gas tax set to expire on September 30, the debate is ongoing on what should be done and what effects any action or inaction might have. Barry LePatner, author of Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, offers six solutions to move beyond threats to the gas tax and start fixing ailing infrastructure. Raise the gas tax and reform it to be based on miles traveled. “The current gas tax is based on usage that is measured by the gallon instead of on the amount of miles driven,” explains LePatner. “The introduction of more fuel efficient cars, albeit a good thing, means many drivers are paying less than their fair share for highway maintenance. We need to use the latest technology to more evenly allocate a highway use tax that places more of the burden on those who are the heavy users." Create jobs by repairing the nearly 8,000 U.S. bridges in danger of collapse. "Estimates from studies show that every $1 billion of infrastructure investment creates 10,000 to 31,000 jobs. Therefore, if we estimate that each of these bridges can be fixed for an average of $20 million, then with an investment of $40 billion we can create as many as 400,000 jobs that will last for at least two years and avoid future catastrophes," LePatner says. "One-third of this expenditure (i.e., $13 billion) will immediately be returned to the federal and state governments via income taxes." Use only true fixed-price contracts on infrastructure projects. “Requiring contractors to bid with true fixed-price contracts and assume the risk of completing on time and on budget can be incentivized through agreements that pay bonuses for early completion. In addition, better cost analysis by governments and risk management that prices contingencies will end the spiral of cost overruns and save governments billions of dollars annually. Institute the proposed National Infrastructure Bank. Earlier this year, Democratic Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison offered bipartisan legislation that would create a national infrastructure bank. They propose that the federal government make an initial deposit of $10 billion into the bank. The Infrastructurist.com said initial reports suggest the government’s $10 billion seed money could grow to $640 billion inside ten years. Focus on projects in metropolitan areas. LePatner says, "Only half of all Americans are within reach of mass transit, and this is one area where large returns on investment will prove to be of major value. The focus must shift to concentrating on urban areas where two-thirds of our nation’s population lives.” Increase the use of P3s. P3s are public/private partnerships. “It is long past the time when we should take advantage of the private sector’s willingness to take on risk for a fair profit while protecting the public’s interest," LePatner says. "We can ensure new and needed infrastructure while reaping the long-term benefits of low interest payouts to private funds ready, willing, and able to enter this critical area of need.” Read LePatner's entire article "Six Solutions to Move Beyond Politics to a Gas Tax that Can Fix Ailing Infrastructure," at ForConstructionPros.com.

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