A well built, well maintained, modernized infrastructure network is a key component of a strong economy. The state of U.S. infrastructure has been in decline in recent years, and is nowhere near the envy of the world as it once was. While only tangentially related, the U.S. economy has also been in decline for a number of reasons.
Building and improving the interstate highway system, properly maintaining ports and harbors, expanding the U.S. pipeline network and improving freight and passenger rail systems will go a long way towards solving both problems. There are two primary components to infrastructure growth and improvement: capital investment and ability to obtain project permits.
Capital investment is certainly the more complicated of the two. For starters, not all infrastructure projects are funded in the same way. The federal government plays a large role in financing the interstate highway system and maintaining ports and harbors, while private companies or investors provide the capital for freight rail and pipeline systems.
How the federal government raises and spends funds for different infrastructure projects is a topic for a different day, but federal permitting policies and processes can have a significant impact on where and whether the private sector chooses to invest in infrastructure. As the Obama Administration points out, “more efficient and expeditious [permitting] processes mean timely Federal decisions and greater predictability for project sponsors and investors…”
Last week, the Administration issued new guidance to agencies on how to better streamline the infrastructure permitting review process. The guidance is aimed at getting agencies across the federal government to review their respective portions of a permit application concurrently, rather than the current process of beginning one after the other ends. Additionally, the guidance “designates specific permitting and review schedules and milestones for each project to report.”
Moving forward, the federal government will look to streamline reviews carried out by 11 different federal agencies on a broad range of projects from transit projects to airport capital improvements and renewable energy generation facilities. We commend the administration in its effort to make the infrastructure permitting process more timely and reasonable. These efforts will not solve all of our problems, but the first step to a more robust infrastructure network is removing impediments that lie in the way of progress.
We look forward to seeing the results.