WASHINGTON —Sens. Mark R. Warner and Roy Blunt Wednesday led a bipartisan coalition of senators in introducing legislation to establish a new infrastructure financing authority to help states and localities better leverage private funds to build and maintain the nation’s outdated infrastructure.
The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act helps to address the nation’s investment shortfall in maintaining and improving the nation’s transportation network, water and wastewater systems and energy infrastructure, the two senators said.
The legislation would provide additional financing tools for states and localities to create new jobs here at home while also increasing our nation’s economic competitiveness, they said.
“As we mark the 5th annual Infrastructure Week, we must think boldly and make real investments in our nation’s infrastructure rather than kick the can down the road with short-term fixes,” said Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. “The BRIDGE Act offers a bold, bipartisan solution to help address our infrastructure needs by incentivizing private investment and pairing it with public resources. This legislation will set a clear framework that will help create jobs, expand U.S. commerce and trade, and keep American businesses competitive.”
“Missouri is a transportation hub, and improving our roads, bridges, and waterways is critical for economic growth in our state and across the nation,” said Blunt, a Republican. “This bipartisan bill will provide much-needed resources to strengthen infrastructure and help ensure Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses are able to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.”
The BRIDGE Act is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Chris Coons, D-Del., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Lindsey Graham R-S.C., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
America currently spends roughly 2 percent of its GDP on infrastructure — about half what it did 50 years ago, the senators said, noting that by comparison, Europe spends around 5 percent, and China spends 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the United States currently ranks 12th among 144 developed countries in overall infrastructure compared to our global competitors.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) latest estimate shows that in order to close the $2 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future needs and restore a global competitive advantage, the U.S. must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. As of 2012, of the more than 600,000 bridges in the U.S., 24.9 percent were either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. Nationally, bridges are, on average, 42 years old, and need an estimated $76 billion to repair and replace. Similarly, the average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that aging and high-hazard dams require an investment of $21 billion to repair.
The BRIDGE Act would establish an independent, nonpartisan financing authority to complement existing U.S. infrastructure funding.
The authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to help states and localities fund the most economically viable road, bridge, rail, port, water, sewer, and other significant infrastructure projects. The authority would receive initial seed funding of up to $10 billion, which could incentivize private sector investment and make possible $300 billion or more in total project investment. The authority is structured in a way to make it self-sustaining over time without requiring additional federal appropriations.
“If we are to improve our nation’s infrastructure, graded a D-plus in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, we can no longer afford to defer needed investment in modernization and maintenance,” said Norma Jean Mattei, president of ASCE.
According to ASCE, 42 percent of major urban highways in the U.S. are congested, which costs the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance.