This week was packed with a short-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization extension bill, Florida’s infrastructure report card release, and more states implementing changes to fund their infrastructure.
Congress has finally compromised on the FAA reauthorization bill, a 14-month extension that will boost airport security, refund baggage fees for lost or delayed items, and implement rules that will improve air travel for disabled persons and children. Although it was ultimately not included, air traffic control privatization dominated the debate, leaving little room for discussions of how to improve America’s aviation infrastructure. The earlier Senate bill included an increase in funding for the Airport Improvement Program, but the increase did not make the final bill.
On a state level, Florida released its Infrastructure Report Card this past Thursday, breaking down the state’s infrastructure’s strengths and weaknesses. While the grade increased from the last report card in 2012 from a C- to a C, coastal areas, storm water management and school facilities still need improvement.
When it comes to funding and maintaining state infrastructure, there are examples of both successes and failures seen this week. Idaho’s Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) program is an example of the benefits of making the investment, as it added almost 120 miles of highways to help relieve congestion, built 15 new bridges, replaced or widened 26 bridges, built and improved several interchanges and created or sustained more than 15,000 jobs. The FASTLANE grants, created through the federal FAST Act, are good examples of investments in state infrastructure projects that will bring much-needed value to the state. California is another state that is working hard to find new funding mechanisms, now trying out a pay-by-mile fee for drivers to see whether this will help generate funds.
On the flip side, states like New Jersey and Illinois are suffering losses with state construction projects shutting down due to dwindling transportation funds. In the case of New Jersey, the projects shutdown could add 10 percent to construction costs once those projects are re-started.
Clearly the price of underinvestment is high—and these states are not the only ones paying the price. ASCE’s latest Failure to Act report details how much we are all paying each year due to underinvestment in our nation’s infrastructure. As Members of Congress head home for summer recess, take the chance to share with our lawmakers that it’s important for us to have a long-term sustainable funding source and plan for our infrastructure.