Principles for New Federal Infrastructure Investment Policy

APA has long been an advocate for more and better investment in the nation's infrastructure. This includes not only transportation investments, but also the framework needed to supply water, manage stormwater, provide energy, facilitate communication, and more.

As President Trump and a new Congress begin working on an infrastructure package, APA stands ready to work to ensure that this needed investment program works to benefit people and places across the country. To that end, APA offers some principles that Congress and the Trump administration should use to craft effective infrastructure policy:

What We Believe

We strongly believe that well-planned infrastructure projects strengthen communities, boost the economy, and expand opportunity. They also promote a return on the public investment, in contrast with unplanned infrastructure that can waste public funds, damage communities and the environment, and otherwise lead to inefficient growth.

Looking across the country and the globe we see that the cities and regions that are thriving are those investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, transit, sidewalks, parks and recreation, water, energy, freight, and communications that connect people and goods to economic and social opportunity. At the same time, we know that a poorly designed infrastructure program can inhibit the shared prosperity, economic growth, and community development that we all seek. In this area of policy, details matter as much as funding.

A New Federal Infrastructure Program Should:

Serve Multiple Modes and Types of Infrastructure

The nation's infrastructure needs are as diverse as its communities and regions. It is essential that investment occur in a wide of array of projects. Funding and investment programs should support not only road development and transportation but also other critical needs, such as water, energy, and communications. Broad flexibility and eligibility will ensure a greater impact and meet local needs.

Driven by Local Visions and Strong Regional Planning

The vision and values of local residents are best represented and advanced by shifting decision making to local communities and empowering local and regional planning for guiding investments and engaging citizens. Regional planning is at the heart of the federal transportation planning process. Productive federal policy would build on these regional institutions and support good planning.

Address Long-term Funding Sustainability

New legislation holds the promise of ensuring that federal infrastructure funding is put on a sustainable and predictable path. In spite of important advances in recent transportation legislation, the structural challenges to the federal gas tax and trust fund remain. Advances in technology and fuel efficiency are likely to make the current system unsustainable and insufficient for the nation's needs. If a new program is a component of tax reform, it provides a unique opportunity to meet our long-term needs. A thoughtful approach to tax reform can support long-term investment in infrastructure and provide tools to regions and communities that bring prosperity and access to opportunity.

Harness Private Sector Investment and Creativity to Advance and Protect the Public Interest

There is a clear and important role for private investment in addressing our infrastructure challenges. Public-private partnerships and innovative project finance strategies can be useful and vital tools in infrastructure development; however, such strategies need to recognize that true partnerships include equitable sharing of both risks and benefits. A new infrastructure package should include and expand opportunities for private investment that benefits communities and regions economically, but it must genuinely advance the right projects and the public interest. Policy should ensure that projects without a steady or obvious revenue stream get support, full public transparency is provided, and new tools expand the pool for investment without shifting costs to local communities.

Consider Key Factors of Location and Leverage

It is a truism in development that location matters. There are significant opportunities for communities to spur development associated with and connected to new infrastructure projects. Federal policy should consider the importance of location, help communities fully leverage investments, and connect infrastructure to related issues like housing and economic development. Good policy requires building on existing investments and communities, including support for repair and modernization.

Promote Access

Transportation infrastructure decisions have often been driven by the desire to promote mobility — often defined as moving people as quickly as possible. While mobility is a consideration, today the needs of access and connection are paramount in ensuring that infrastructure investment provides the biggest benefit to communities and the economy. Moreover, mobility considerations should focus on mobility for people, not just vehicles. Incorporating measures and standards of access to opportunity and connectivity into new infrastructure investment policy is vital.

Advance Opportunity for All

Too often in our past, infrastructure programs have exacerbated inequality, harmed low-income and minority neighborhoods, imposed disproportionate environmental impacts on vulnerable communities, and failed to advance broad-based prosperity. The legacy of some past infrastructure decisions continues to impose a social cost on many communities. A new program has the opportunity and the obligation to support social equity goals and advance economic and social opportunity for all. This requires robust public engagement and intentional strategies for incorporating equity.

Embrace and Support Innovation

Recent years have seen the rapid emergence of new transportation technologies and businesses, advanced use of data analytics, and "smart" infrastructure. There seems little doubt that we will see autonomous vehicles and other new technologies implemented soon. These new services, systems, and approaches will place new needs and demands on our infrastructure. Federal policy should foster innovation in design, planning, and implementation of "smart city" tools and fund these new infrastructure demands.

Make Communities Safer and More Resilient

Communities across the country are focusing on minimizing and avoiding damage from natural disasters. Resilience and mitigation have become essential elements of local planning for infrastructure development. A new federal investment program should support efforts to advance hazard resilience and design safer infrastructure that meets the needs of all users. Safer communities will protect the investment and produce better projects and benefits. However, resilience is more than preparing for disasters. Resilience includes adaptation to changing economic and social structures and physical conditions for which investments in supportive infrastructure can be beneficial and cost effective.