Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), along with seven other bipartisan cosponsors, recently introduced S. 1168 – BRIDGE Act to establish a national infrastructure bank to give state and local governments another tool in the toolbox for financing infrastructure projects. The bank would help state and local governments better leverage private funds to build, maintain, and repair the nation’s infrastructure. Despite the legislation’s name, transit, rail, airport, marine port, energy, water, and water resources projects of regional or national significance would all be eligible to apply for financing from the bank. The creation of an infrastructure bank was first proposed in Washington over two decades ago and has been floated in a variety of forms since then, including by President Obama and by then Trump transition team member, now Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Sen. Warner has been working on his version since first introducing it in the 113th Congress. The bill would establish an independent, nonpartisan financing authority to provide loans and loan guarantees to help state and local governments fund the most economically viable infrastructure projects. The bank would receive a one-time seed funding of $10 billion, which could incentive private investment. The bill’s authors predict the legislation could make possible $300 billion or more in total project investment. The bank is designed to be self-sustaining and not require additional federal appropriations. The idea, which has been executed at the state level, is that as one project’s funds are paid back, that funding can then be used to finance another project.
ASCE supports the creation of a national infrastructure bank assuming it meets the following criteria:
- The bank should be capitalized initially by general fund appropriations and should be self-sustaining after the initial start-up period;
- The bank should develop financing packages for selected projects; and
- The bank should not replace existing infrastructure funding and financing mechanisms, but act as a supplement to leverage federal, state, local, and private infrastructure financing.
ASCE’s President Norma Jean Mattei, PH.D., P.E. said about the BRIDGE Act:
“If we are to improve our nation’s infrastructure, graded a D+ in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, we can no longer afford to defer needed investment in modernization and maintenance. Under Sen. Warner’s leadership, the BRIDGE Act would make a significant step toward this increased, sustained investment, establishing a new, innovative funding authority designed to attract billions of dollars in private sector investment in our nation’s water, transportation, and energy sectors. Sen. Blunt’s co-sponsorship demonstrates once again that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue that impacts the lives of all Americans. Through the BRIDGE Act, our nation’s infrastructure will receive much-needed additional funding to help narrow the $2 trillion infrastructure investment gap that currently costs every American family $3,400 a year out of their discretionary income.”