P3 Infrastructure

America is a transportation nation. Infrastructure is the foundation that connects businesses, communities and people, driving our economy and our quality of life. Investments in infrastructure are essential to support healthy, vibrant communities and are critical to economic growth, employment and global competitiveness. America’s transportation infrastructure, therefore, is key to binding us together as a nation. As President Dwight Eisenhower observed, without the unifying force of transportation, “we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.”

Our transportation infrastructure is one of our most critical national assets. However, we are a nation at a crossroads. Today, our infrastructure systems are failing to keep pace with current and expanding needs, investment in infrastructure is faltering, and nearly half of all Americans lack access to transit services.

Statistics on the current state of our transportation infrastructure are staggering. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card gives America’s infrastructure a cumulative grade of D+. Over the past 20 years, total federal, state and local investment in transportation has fallen steadily as a share of GDP – while population, congestion and maintenance backlogs have increased. Among industrialized countries, the United States lags behind our overseas competitors in transportation infrastructure investment. According to the World Economic Forum, the United States has fallen from 7th to 18th in overall quality of roads in the past decade. Nearly two-thirds of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition, while one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic. 

 A deficient transportation infrastructure substantially impacts our economy. Each year, we spend 5.5 billion extra hours in travel time due to traffic congestion, costing families $120 billion in fuel and lost time and our businesses $27 billion in extra freight transportation costs. 

Our nation’s aging aviation infrastructure is also at a tipping point. Federal funding streams are failing to keep pace with current capacity and modernization needs. 

Our transportation infrastructure was not always in disarray. In fact, America’s transportation networks were once the envy of the rest of the world. Throughout our history, American prosperity has been spurred by and depended upon investments in transportation infrastructure.

We cannot afford to continue to rely on the investments and wise decisions of previous generations of Americans. If we continue to fail to properly maintain and improve our infrastructure, its continued deterioration will have repercussions throughout our economy and our society.

As it has been for generations, leadership from Washington will be critical to our success.

It is imperative that our transportation policies and regulatory frameworks keep pace with the times. Policymakers must do more to better integrate public-private partnerships (P3) into their solutions for infrastructure financing and project acceleration. Ensuring a sound infrastructure network is a shared responsibility, and private capital from long-term investors could provide as much as $2.5 trillion for infrastructure globally by 2030. Well-conceived and executed P3s can deliver much-needed benefits to the public while providing attractive opportunities for private investors.

The consequences for our economy and our communities will be severe if we do not begin to take action. While competitor nations continue to invest in infrastructure, the United States is stuck in a long period of decline in overall infrastructure capital spending that is harming job creation, productivity and will eventually impact our global competitiveness. We must not squander the opportunity while we still have time and must work together to advocate for solutions. 

ROD HALL is a government affairs advisor in the K&L Gates’ Washington, D.C. office. STEPHEN MARTINKO is a government affairs counselor in the K&L Gates’ Public Policy and Law practice. A longer version of their article can be found at http://bit.ly/1PKTuXf.

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