The effects of the White House’s new infrastructure investment plans are already being seen in D.C. as Vice President Biden visited a river tunnel project on Friday the 16th.
This project is worth 2.6 billion dollars and is expected to take two decades to complete – a 13-mile network of tunnels that will capture storm runoff and stem sewage runoff into the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.
The Washington Post reports the story and Vice President Biden’s thoughts on the projects,
To Vice President Biden and others, the project is an example of the infrastructure investment necessary to keep the American economy competitive. Although the Clean Rivers Project is being funded mainly by local ratepayers, it has been supported by some congressional appropriations.
“If we’re going to lead the world in the 21st century . . . then we have to have the most advanced infrastructure in the world,” he said. “Businesses do not come to places where the water is dirty.”
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced the creation of an EPA “Water Finance Center” that will seek to facilitate public-private partnerships to build and fix water and sewer systems.
And Vice President Biden announced an initiative to open those kinds of partnerships to types of bond financing previously available only to projects funded entirely by tax dollars.
He mentioned his days as a County Council member in Delaware in the early 1970s, when, he said, a combined sewer system was the “biggest problem” he faced.
“It’s one of the hardest things to deal with because it costs so much money, and it is not anything that the people can see,” he said. “It’s one thing to go out and convince people that you should raise revenue to build a new park or to build something they can see or they can feel. . . . And so we have a gigantic problem.”
It’s encouraging to see leading politicians endorsing beneficial new infrastructure projects. It will be interesting to observe how many more projects will come to life with the US government’s infrastructure push.
As Vice President Biden noted, getting communities to invest in updating infrastructure they can’t see can be a very tough sell politically. At the same time good transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure are the backbone of efficient and well functioning modern economies.
So there is a political tension for funding and revenue that everyone who works in the infrastructure sector knows about.
In Australasia we have found that infrastructure asset management plans and planning have been very beneficial in assisting communities and politicians understand and debate the issues around the long term sustainable management of infrastructure.
We have also seen the conversations and debates shift to reasoned discussion of the services required and the affordability of services as the facts and long term fiscal projections become known.
Given these community and political debates are ongoing across the United States at all levels of government (and across the rest of the world) it seems that developing infrastructure management planning is a good tool for communication and informed debate.
PHOTO CREDIT: The U.S. Capitol Building – Washington DC by www.GlynLowe.com via Flickr Creative Commons License