The Associated General Contractors of America outlined major changes needed to federal infrastructure programs to refocus on projects that are in the national interest and to restore public confidence in those programs. The reform recommendations are based on a new analysis the association conducted that identified a lack of focus and significant inefficiencies with the current approach to many federal programs.
"There's no doubt investing in infrastructure is in the national interest," said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "But the fact is our federal infrastructure programs have become so unfocused and ineffective that public support for funding them has declined precipitously."
Among the recommendations outlined in "The Case for Infrastructure & Reform" are eliminating infrastructure programs, like protecting covered bridges and building bike lanes, that aren't in the federal interest and giving state and local officials more flexibility. The association is also calling for streamlining the federal environmental review process, setting timelines for completing those reviews and for filing anti-infrastructure lawsuits and eliminating the current approach to earmarking infrastructure funds.
The association also is calling for measures to make it easier to encourage private sector investment in infrastructure facilities by eliminating restrictions on tolling highways, establishing public benefit bonds and rewarding states for enacting enabling legislation. In addition, the association identifies ways to encourage greater private sector operation of infrastructure, especially transit systems, as a way to reduce costs and improve services.
The association's recommendations are designed to address many of the significant problems with the current federal approach to investing in infrastructure, Sandherr noted. For example, the current approach actually makes it difficult to attract private sector capital, limits state and local flexibility in building infrastructure projects and spends too much money on projects that are not in the national interest.
"Reforming the federal approach to infrastructure is crucial to ensuring America's continued prosperity and national economic security," Sandherr said. "In today's economic environment, allowing vital infrastructure to deteriorate further is tantamount to undermining our national economic security."