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Senate Democrats’ infrastructure plan provides more funding, but as with the president’s plan, it fails to prioritize repair & maintenance

Upon the release of the Senate Democratic Jobs & Infrastructure Plan, T4A Director Kevin F. Thompson released the following statement:

“We strongly support the Senate Democrats call to increase funding for investments in vital infrastructure, addressing our maintenance backlog and funding transportation alternatives. But many of these programs signal the approach Congress should be, but isn’t, taking with the rest of their proposal: prioritize repair with formula dollars and select expansion projects on a competitive basis.

“It seems that both parties on Capitol Hill are missing an important point on infrastructure. We need to focus much more on what we are funding rather than how much we are spending. Both the President’s infrastructure plan and the Democrats’ plan are silent on how to address the quality of projects chosen and how to overcome the flaws in our current transportation program that produced such a massive national backlog in deferred maintenance and repairs in the first place.

“In contrast with the President’s plan, the Democrats’ plan does provide distinct funding for various categories of infrastructure investment rather than forcing them to cannibalize each other for funding. It encourages more competition rather than indiscriminately doling out the spoils of a finite funding package.

“But neither plan provides any new long-term source of transportation funding or prioritizes new federal dollars toward our backlogs of neglected maintenance. We cannot repair our ‘crumbling’ transportation infrastructure unless we raise new, real money for transportation, and then ensure that money is directed first to fixing our existing networks.

“The Senate Democrats propose funding these increases by making changes to the tax code. Regardless of the merits of tax reform, real, long-term, dedicated funding is necessary. If infrastructure investment is truly a priority, Congress needs to pay for it with new, long-term, stable revenue for transportation that’s derived from the users of the system. If Congress is unwilling to do so, then we should admit that infrastructure investment is not a priority.

“While we appreciate that the Democrats’ plan proposes new transit grants for critical asset repair and a new program for repairing bridges, these programs will fail to accomplish their goals if, at the same time, we fund programs that encourage building new over improving stewardship of existing infrastructure.

“We cannot simply pour new money into the same existing highway and transit formula programs that brought us to this moment. This is more than just an issue of money — if Congress is going to raise new money for transportation, we need to spend it in a new way. Absent any real reform, we’ll merely be empowering states and metro areas to build new things that they can’t afford to maintain over the long-term.”