The A.I. Interview: Scott D. Pattison, CEO and Executive Director of the National Governors Association

Voters and representatives on both sides of the aisle support infrastructure advancements, but federal action must occur

American Infrastructure: What steps are states taking on their own to improve infrastructure?

Scott D. Pattison: State governments are leading on infrastructure, but we can’t do it on our own.

One example is Pennsylvania’s $889 million Rapid Bridge Replacement program, which is replacing 558 structurally deficient bridges in a public-private partnership (P3) agreement. Massachusetts, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, Georgia, New York, Rhode Island, and Oregon also are bundling the replacement of many small bridges in a single procurement to create efficiencies through economies of scale.

Maryland selected a private company to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the 16-mile Purple Line light rail project over 36 years in the D.C. suburbs. The $2.65 billion transit project received a $875 million TIFIA loan.

State and local leaders in Washington State secured $2.8 billion for a tunnel to replace the aging and earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.

And Colorado’s U.S. 36 Express Lanes project was a $500 million design-build-finance-operate- maintain (DBFOM) P3 project connecting Denver with Boulder, in the northwest part of the Denver metro region.

States are also investing in their information infrastructure. Indiana launched a $100 million grant program to expand broadband service in rural communities. This is part of a larger $1 billion investment the state is making on infrastructure. Funds are being raised from a fee on heavy-duty commercial vehicles using Indiana’s toll road.

Meanwhile, they are adjusting to new technology and the impact on revenue, for instance, by adding registration fees for electric vehicles, which at least 18 states have done to date, and trying new approaches by piloting mileage- based user fees. Nine such state or regional pilot programs are under way.

States have had to compensate for previous federal inaction on transportation infrastructure, they cannot do so indefinitely.

While states are driving innovation, the burden of modernizing and maintaining the nation’s entire transportation network cannot be left only to the states. All levels of government must do their share to invest in quality infrastructure and meet our nation’s transportation needs.

AI: How are states paying for infrastructure right now?
SDP: To address the growing infrastructure gap, over 25 states have raised motor fuel taxes in the past decade, including Utah, Montana, Georgia, and New Jersey. Even Republican governors have raised fuel taxes. This year we have already seen states like Ohio propose similar increases.

Voters and state leaders recognize the importance of infrastructure. Last year, voters across the states approved more than $24 billion in bonds for projects such as water infrastructure, seawall improvements, and roads.

States are doing more than their share. In 2016, direct federal spending on nondefense infrastructure was less than 0.1 percent of GDP, whereas state and local spending was about 1.4 percent of GDP. State initiatives and voter- approved bonds help, but they’re not the whole picture. We need federal leaders to step up.

AI: What are the prospects for bipartisan action on infrastructure this year?
SDP: Given the national political atmosphere, the NGA is heartened that infrastructure is a truly bipartisan priority. We were pleased to hear the president talk up the prospects for a bipartisan raised fuel taxes. This year we have already seen states like Ohio propose similar increases.

Voters and state leaders recognize the importance of infrastructure. Last year, voters across the states approved more than $24 billion in bonds for projects such as water infrastructure, seawall improvements, and roads.

States are doing more than their share. In 2016, direct federal spending on nondefense infrastructure was less than 0.1 percent of GDP, whereas state and local spending was about 1.4 percent of GDP. State initiatives and voter- approved bonds help, but they’re not the whole picture. We need federal leaders to step up.

AI: Why is modern and well-maintained infrastructure so important?
SDP: We all pay for infrastructure, either directly or indirectly. In 2017, road congestion cost the agreement on infrastructure when he addressed governors at the White House during our winter meeting in February, and we are encouraged by relevant congressional committees already focusing on a package to move this year. The commitment was on display during the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s initial hearing on infrastructure in February, where the committee heard from governors and other state and local officials.

Infrastructure is the most basic of reasons that the states were organized and that the nation was created. Infrastructure matters. Voters in all parts of the country and of all political persuasions recognize this, and so do their representatives.

The nation’s governors stand ready to work with Congress and the Administration to move a bipartisan infrastructure package this year.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.