Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

America's Infrastructure Needs

This graphic ran in the Wall Street Journal yesterday ("White House to Roll Out Trump Infrastructure Plan." 

The data compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineers likely doesn't include all kinds of projects that could be done, but aren't already listed in various "transformational project action plans" or "constrained long range transportation plans"--such as a separated blue/silver Metrorail line in DC.

-- ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card

From the Los Angeles Times editorial "Trump's infrastructure plan isn't a plan. It's a fantasy":
President Trump's infrastructure plan isn't a plan. It's fantasy. The outline the administration put forth Monday is essentially this: The federal government will offer a diminished amount of money — $200 billion over 10 years — for building or repairing roads, bridges, airports, seaports, energy projects and water systems and somehow, magically, $1.5 trillion to $1.8 trillion in infrastructure spending will materialize.

Where would all that money come from? The president's framework doesn't say, but the intent is for the federal government to spend a lot less money on infrastructure and for local and state governments to spend a lot more. Oh, and private investors are expected to rain down money on infrastructure projects too. ...

But the Trump framework is short on funding and pragmatism. The plan calls for $200 billion in federal spending over a decade, but much of that money is set aside for rural communities and loan programs. One hundred billion dollars would go to competitive grants, providing a mere $10 billion a year for roads, railroads, airports, water treatment plants, flood control systems and contaminated land cleanups.

That's barely enough money to make a dent in the estimated $2 trillion of needed transportation, water and energy system upgrades. By way of comparison, the federal government spent $96 billion on transportation and water projects alone in 2014.

The $200 billion wouldn't be new money. It would be paid for by cutting other infrastructure-funding programs.

According to the editorial, the Trump Administration document calls out LA County's Measure M local sales tax to fund transit projects as an example of what local jurisdictions can do to raise money for such projects.

But typically, Republicans rail against such measures, and when it comes to gasoline excise taxes organize referenda to overturn increases ("Group aims to repeal California gas tax hike on November 2018 ballot," LAT) and they are hard to pass anyway ("Most California voters already want to overturn gas tax increase, poll," LAT).

Separately, the Metropolitan Area Projects program in Oklahoma City, regional parks tax and investment programs (e.g., Hamilton County, Ohio; Salt Lake County, etc.), the Allegeny County Pennsylvania Regional Assets District, and the Denver Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are models for local infrastructure and cultural financing programs.



At 10:44 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Thanks for this. A very reasonable summary.

One glaring mistake though, using 80% payment of a highway project as an example of then failing to maintain it. That doesn't happen. Obviously, I've never worked in that side of transportation, but the Feds are very specific of highway trust fund money and maintenance of federal roads.

It's pretty fair to say that it's the rare federal road that is not maintained well, problems like the I-35 bridge in Minnesota notwithstanding.

But the CEI was right to call out the real problem with maintaining an asset once it becomes operational, something we have discussed for years wrt WMATA.

... it's not unlike the current Mainly Macro blog post on how the Tories are getting a pass on budget strangling of the NHS, which is killing people.

WMATA gets the blame for maintenance (although yes, contracting, financing, managing of maintenance is another issue) when really that was the fault of the jurisdictions and their representatives blowing it off for 15+ years, despite WMATA planners bringing it up.

It always kinda pains me when I hear a 3P presentation and they key on mandated, contractual maintenance standards as a key element of the project, how that differentiates from typical publicly owned projects. It's true, but it shouldn't be that way.

I think streamlining permit requirements and review procedures is reasonable. There needs to be a better balance, and it shouldn't be so easy for public opposition to derail a project for years--that being said, in the "Moses tradition" a lot of projects have flaws, and the public participation process does raise the possibility of correcting them.

(E.g., in the Purple Line presentation I saw last month, in response to a question, Sec. Rahn mentioned how two stations had significant redesigns because of issues raised by residents/stakeholders that were legitimate. Although he expected fewer such changes going forward, because glaring problems would have already been brought to the attention of the project.)

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Not only should the Airport Facility Charge be raised, it should be revised to be able to pay for transit links to current systems rather than to build separate ones (which is why Newark Airport and JFK Airport have separate transit lines from the NYC Subway; and maybe if such money could have been used that way the N/W could have been extended to LaGuardia -- or another connection from a different subway line.

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I'd be completely down with a 25 cent gas tax increase, in particular if we don't use it for the highway trust fund.

Interesting that the Kochs are so opposed; the core of their business is refineries.


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