Visionary Infrastructure Initiatives in 2020

While waiting on Congress to create a national infrastructure bill, several cities have begun significant infrastructure initiatives this year

By Mary Scott Nabers

I rarely make predictions about anything. That’s because so few things are certain. However, I’m very comfortable making one. Congress will pass an infrastructure bill in the near future. When COVID-19 is finally controlled, Congress will aggressively focus on stimulating the economy and creating jobs, and nothing will result in quicker economic stimulus and job creation than infrastructure reform. Promises made must be kept – and there is bipartisan support in Congress.

In spite of my confidence in an infrastructure bill, whether Congress demonstrates leadership or not, infrastructure projects are already being launched in 2020 in several major cities.

In spite of my confidence in an infrastructure bill, whether Congress demonstrates leadership or not, infrastructure projects are already being launched in 2020 in several major cities.”

State and local officials are not waiting for Congress to act. Too much waiting has already occurred. Time has run out. Water resources and water quality are too important to ignore. Transportation projects cannot be delayed any longer. Schools need broadband now. Public transit authorities are launching billion-dollar projects, and large construction projects of every type are underway throughout the country.

Alternative funding is abundant, and completion is so aggressive that government officials can obtain historically low rates for capital. Private sector investors are competing with regional banks, insurance companies, government contractors, nonprofits, and large investment conglomerates. They all want to provide funding for infrastructure projects. The state of infrastructure in America is now receiving the focus and attention it deserves.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration touted a $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan in the 2021 budget. The plan called for a one-time payment of $190 billion for infrastructure projects and continued funding each year for a decade. There are no indications yet as to what can be expected from the Biden administration, but both Democrats and Republicans are on record supporting an infrastructure bill — one that is long overdue.

In the meantime, here are just a few examples of visionary infrastructure initiatives that are not waiting for an infrastructure bill:

In Virginia, city officials in Newport News are moving to address water infrastructure. Over the next two years, $45 million will be spent to install smart water meters that will provide an abundance of future benefits. Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI), once installed, will send water usage readings directly to a Customer Service Center, where detailed water consumption statistics will be provided continually in real time. The city also plans to spend $15.5 million to remove impurities present in the water distribution system.

Voters in Austin, Texas recently approved $3.7 billion in funding for the school district. Construction projects include 10 new facilities and development of a K-8 STEM campus. An abundance of new technology infrastructure will be purchased and a family resource center in four neighborhoods will house social services and will be operated by a public-private partnership.

Voters in Austin also approved a $7 billion transit plan that includes light rail, 31 stations, a downtown transit tunnel and expanded bus service. Project Connect will expand and revitalize much of the downtown area.

A $64.3 million road reconstruction project has been announced by the city of Shoreline, Washington. The project includes construction improvements to address increased transit demand associated with the Sound Transit Link Light Rail Station. The project includes improving vehicular capacity and enhancing walkways, illumination, underground utilities, and the storm system.

The City-County Council of Indianapolis received approval for $155 million in bonds to expand the Indiana Convention Center. This project will bring the region one step closer to a transformation of the Pan Am Plaza which first opened in 1972. The expansion will add a 50,000-square-foot extension across the street with a connected walkway to the convention center.

City leaders in Boise, Idaho, are addressing airport infrastructure. Plans have been finalized for construction of a new five-story parking garage. Additionally, the current exit toll booth will be demolished and replaced by a new seven-lane structure located closer to the airport terminal. A new passenger walkway will link the new garage to the second level of the airport’s flyover bridge. Officials also are in the initial stage of planning for construction of a rental car garage and a new airport concourse.

The Southwest Florida International Airport also will see upgrades as part of a $250 million terminal expansion project. A new 18-line centralized security checkpoint will be added, and significant improvements will be made for dining and shopping. The passenger ticketing areas will be upgraded, and a second project involving a $45 million passenger boarding bridge is already underway.

The new year holds great promise – a COVID vaccine, a renewed and vibrant economy, more jobs, and a significant focus on infrastructure.

Mary Scott Nabers is President/CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., a business development/public affairs firm that specializes in procurement consulting, market research, government affairs, knowledge transfer and public-private partnerships.