Washington, D.C. – A panel of national infrastructure funding experts urged incorporation of new strategies outlined in “America’s New Playbook for Infrastructure” which implores for a fundamental shift away from the current top-down and outmoded federal funding model, including providing local governments more autonomy on local infrastructure needs.
ACEC Research Institute Chair John Carrato, president of Alfred Benesch & Company in Chicago opened the panel. “The work the Institute is doing with Accelerator for America really shines a light on the fact that we need to rethink the way we handle infrastructure policy development. The best ideas regularly bubble up from the local level, through the mayors, county commissioners, and other elected officials who use the infrastructure every day and have a unique local perspective that cannot be replicated in an office in downtown DC.”
During the Research Institute’s webinar titled: “Innovation in Climate and Water Infrastructure” panelist Debbie King, mayor of Nampa, ID, bemoaned current infrastructure funding methods. “As a mayor of a small city, I can tell you funding is not keeping up with growth,” she said, adding that “The impetus on capacity and meeting federal requirements also can be devastating to small communities.”
The recently released playbook was developed by the non-profit Accelerator for America, in collaboration with the new National Infrastructure Partnership, which includes the ACEC Research Institute, WSP USA, HNTB and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, among others.
In addition to King, the panel included; Chuck Chaitovitz, vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Radhika Fox, CEO, U.S. Water Alliance; Edwin Crooks, senior vice president, HNTB; and Camille Touton, staff member, U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
Crooks said he supports a playbook recommendation to require more from the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)—the long-term, low-cost supplemental loan program for water projects. “WIFIA has done a nice job of addressing need, but certainly there’s an opportunity to do more,” he said. “WIFIA needs to be more aggressive in its outreach.”
Touton pointed to Congressional legislation currently being considered to boost national infrastructure investment—the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, and the Water Quality and Jobs Protection Act. “We do realize that resiliency comes with affordability and access issues,” she said.
U.S. Water Alliance CEO Fox applauded the playbook’s strategy to improve alignment of federal and state infrastructure funding policies. “Progress comes when both the federal government and local communities align to come up with innovations,” she said.
The “Innovation in Climate and Water Infrastructure” panel discussion was part of the ACEC Research Institute’s “A New Playbook on National Infrastructure Policy” webinar series. For more information, click here.