Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Remember the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis a few years back? An interstate bridge, something most of us drive over every day, simply…went away. The dead and injured were numerous, and it took months for traffic flow to be restored. Similar disasters are coming, and will become almost a commonplace occurrence if we don’t do something NOW about our crumbling infrastructure. Our rail system is a complete joke, our roads are crumbling and our water, sewer and electric systems are pitifully vulnerable to not only natural disasters but terrorist attack.
It’s going to cost a lot of money to fix this problem. There’s no two ways about it. However, infrastructure spending isn’t “sexy” like new stealth bombers or guided missile destroyers. Road construction inconveniences the public, and nobody likes having their commute impeded by dreaded orange cones.
The billions that need to be raised can only come from a nationwide tax. A penny or two on gas taxes would be grumbled about, but would be bearable by the public. Taxes on tires, car repairs, etc. would likewise go toward raising the necessary funds. What’s required is the political will to impose those taxes, and thus far no one’s got the stones to put their political career at risk for the sake of…a road.
Sheffield Jamaica Correspondent-Oh, and to think the great and mighty America would have had things together. When you have such a blabbermouth for a president, everything should fall in place. But, it’s not. It’s falling apart.
America is a developed country so you’d probably be reasoning that it shouldn’t have an infrastructure issue. However, due to lack of investments it does.
Based on a little research I did, the American administration is proposing about $1 trillion in federal investments to rectify the infrastructure crisis, but about 49% of those who took a survey believe that efforts will prove futile to fix the problem.
Some also believe that the infrastructure will collapse because of high tax increases. From what I’ve seen, fixing this infrastructure crisis does not have to come to that if the government is willing to incite infrastructure investments.
There are several ways that could be done. The government – state and local – should endeavor to attract foreign investors. In addition, infrastructure should be made available for sale or lease to the private sector. Rather than increase taxation, tax incentives and credits should be given, which would make it easier for investors to jump on board.
A “user-pay” model can also be implemented. In areas where traffic congestion is terrible and people need express lanes, they can pay for such service.
Overall, I’m no expert, but it’s possible to fix the infrastructure without breaking the economy and taxpayers.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent-With inflation a fact of life in our society, infrastructure repairs and upgrades will continue to cost more in the future. Solving this growing crisis cannot be put off since so many repairs and upgrades must be made now. We all must share in the cost if we use water, power, heating or cooling, transportation, and the internet. But cost-sharing must be done fairly. Someone who never drives a vehicle or takes public transportation shouldn’t be forced to pay for road repairs. Someone who lives off the grid and gets their power from their own wind, solar, or geothermal sources shouldn’t be forced to pay for gas, heating oil, or electrical grid repairs or upgrades.
One solution is to enact laws that require every new infrastructure proposal to include maintenance and upgrade provisions, so money is set aside for the time when repairs are necessary. The real cost of a project over its lifetime will be known and can be voted up or down instead of voting only on the upfront cost. If that extra ten or twenty or fifty percent of expenses are included, politicians will be more discriminating on voting for new infrastructure and more likely to concentrate spending on upgrades and maintenance of the status quo.
Another solution is to incentivize companies who develop new and better technologies that allow current infrastructure to last longer and be cheaper to maintain. This should be done by leveling the playing field via the tax code so businesses that have long been subsidized, like the oil industry, no longer get special treatment to maintain their competitive and financial advantages. If an innovator develops a method of constructing or repairing a road that results in a longer initial life, repair and upgrade costs are deferred far into the future, resulting in lower costs and less pressure on taxpayers.
User fees must become a larger part of the equation. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993 and is not indexed to inflation, so money for interstate highway repair has lagged for more than twenty years. The gas tax should be increased immediately to at least reflect inflation since 1993. And with the increasing popularity of electric cars, an alternative to a gas tax must be developed to fairly assess drivers of electric-powered vehicles.
To offset this tax increase, and perhaps lower taxes overall, any road that can be privatized should be sold by the government to any company that can prove it has the management and resources to maintain the road at a level as high or higher than the road’s usual and customary condition. This, of course, means the privatized road will become a toll road, and the entire cost of maintenance will be borne by drivers who choose to drive on this road. Removing a substantial chunk of the US road system from federal responsibility can save billions of dollars.
Local issues should be addressed with similar solutions. Power companies can impose surcharges for electrical or natural gas grid maintenance (some already do so). Internet service providers could add small fees to their subscribers to cover server maintenance and security. Telecom companies can do the same for cell tower repairs and security.
But the ultimate cost comes down to individuals. We need to be willing to pay for the infrastructure we use. If the service provided by that infrastructure gets too expensive, then we need to do some soul searching and decide what we must have and what we can live without.
Cartwright-The answer is pretty simple: Public Private Partnerships. There are plenty of examples of successful public private partnerships throughout the world and even here in the United States. If I’m not mistaken, the I-4 project here in Orlando is a public private partnership between FDOT and Skanska. I think Skanska is also involved in a public private partnership involving LaGuardia Airport in New York.
The concept is that private capital invests in public infrastructure projects on which a return can be generated. It’s basically a partial privatization of certain infrastructure. This might result in tolls, taxes, or user fees to repay the private capital investors in the project. This seems to be a much more efficient approach to infrastructure projects than simply putting the burden on the backs of all taxpayers. Usually with these public private partnerships, only people who are actually using or benefiting from the infrastructure are paying for it. If it’s a toll road, you only pay if you use it. If you fly out of an airport that is a public private partnership, you may pay an additional fee. If you don’t use the toll road or the airport, you don’t pay for it.
I would certainly like to see more public private partnerships to address our infrastructure needs in this country. It is no secret that our infrastructure is well behind the times and needs massive investment to modernize and maintain. No doubt the federal government is going to have to fund much of this. How best do we do that? My preferred solution has always been to increase the gas tax. I know that is a highly unpopular tactic for both Republicans and Democrats, but there are many advantages to doing so as I have enumerated in previous discussions with this group and others. Once again, you are only paying the tax if you use gas. Alternatively, we could make every federally maintained highway and bridge a toll road to help pay for the maintenance of it. Any federally funded airport would have additional fees for flying in and out. Any federally funded and maintained port would have additional fees and so on and so forth.
At the end of the day, someone has to pay for our nation’s infrastructure. The current way via the gas tax isn’t working. If it were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Since someone has to pay for this infrastructure, it stands to reason that those who are using it most should be the ones paying the most for it. Thus, we are back to user fees and gas taxes. Under the public private partnership avenue, the cost of building and maintaining a specific project generally falls upon the users of that infrastructure. Let’s allow private investors to use their money to build the projects and they can assume the risk of getting their money back and any return on their investment. This takes the taxpayers in Florida off the hook for roads in California and vice versa.