By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx cautions that fixing the Highway Trust Fund is not the same as fixing the nation’s infrastructure.
“We need a substantial change in our transportation policy,” Foxx said during a May 11 Infrastructure Week event. “It’s a 20th century policy and it’s not working in the 21st century. We need to think about the system we need and not the system we had back in 1956.”
Joining Foxx at the event, sponsored by Brookings Institution’s The Hamilton Project, were former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Roger Altman, the founder and executive chairman of investment bank Evercore Partners.
Foxx noted the May 31 deadline for Congress to pass legislation to keep federal transportation money flowing to states. He touted the Obama administration’s $478 billion Grow America Act, a six-year transportation reauthorization proposal.
But Rendell, noting the Grow America Act proposal calls for taxing the return of overseas corporate profits, said, “Repatriation is a one-shot deal and at the end there still isn’t a long-term solution. If short-term funding happens again the implications are that nothing serious can get done. Shorter projects will get done first and significant projects are on the back burner.”
Rubin invoked President Eisenhower and the formation of the Interstate Highway System, saying “Historically we have done what we needed to do… but for far too long we’ve failed to and the result is we’ve fallen critically behind in new infrastructure and have failed to invest in our current infrastructure.”
A roundtable panel included authors of an infrastructure financing proposal, Alan Krueger and Aaron Klein, as well as Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), Tyler Duvall, a principal at McKinsey & Co., and moderator Melissa Kearney, the director of The Hamilton Project.
Delaney said “Investment in infrastructure should be our top priority as policymakers,” adding that the issue was a quality of life one with less time spent at home the more time is spent commuting. “This is about our societies, our communities, our families and infrastructure is a terrific jobs creation program. If you care about middle class jobs you should care about infrastructure,” Delaney said.