Report: Private sector key to nation’s infrastructure, but hurdles remain

Report: Private sector key to nation’s infrastructure, but hurdles remain
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Amid congressional gridlock, business leaders and transportation officials are turning to the private sector to help fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

But a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center says the effort is going to require an investment model that encourages more transparency and less regulatory hurdles.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s executive council on infrastructure unveiled a set of recommendations on Monday outlining how the country can fill an estimated $1.4 trillion infrastructure shortfall between now and 2025.

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Lawmakers have repeatedly struggled to come up with a long-term funding solution for the country’s infrastructure, despite a growing number of congested roads and deficient bridges. The federal gasoline tax, which finances the Highway Trust Fund, has not been raised in over two decades.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is now calling on federal, state and local governments to draw in more private capital to help fund transportation projects across the United States.

Partnerships with the private sector not only help share the cost and risk of a project, but can also enhance visions for a project’s design, construction and maintenance, according to the Center's report.

“The public sector lacks the resources to make these necessary investments,” the report says. “As a result, our infrastructure, the very foundation of our communities and economy, is literally falling apart.”

The group’s infrastructure council said that the lack of a project pipeline, lengthy permitting process and political risk of projects getting cancelled are all preventing more public-private partnerships from taking place.

To help overcome some of those barriers, the council is recommending that states and localities identify all the public benefits of a project and highlight the cost of inaction; establish an inventory of the physical and economic condition of all public assets; and establish an expert coordinating office to focus on attracting private investments.

The infrastructure council also is encouraging the federal government to streamline the permitting and environmental review process, which the report labels as “one of the most significant deterrents” to private capital.

“The private sector has available capital and expertise to deploy,” the report says. “Yet decades of bureaucratic decision making has created layers of regulatory hurdles, which, together with a fundamental lack of needed data, are making it overly burdensome and cost prohibitive for the private sector to invest.”