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AASHTO Journal

Common Good Raises Cost Estimate for U.S. Infrastructure Rebuild

A recent update issued for an infrastructure report published by advocacy group Common Good indicates that the cost of delays in rebuilding America's infrastructure jumped significantly over the last five years (2012 to 2017) – rising from about $3.7 trillion to nearly $3.9 trillion; an increase of nearly $200 billion or $40 billion per year.

That $3.9 trillion includes direct costs associated with construction delays, along with the "economic and environmental costs" of failing to upgrade what Philip Howard, Common Good's chairman, described as "America's dilapidated infrastructure."

060118infra.jpgHe added that the costs for roads and bridges as well as for water infrastructure increased the most since 2012 – reflecting, in Howard's words, "another half-decade in which decay outpaced investment."

One of the group's major prescriptive for reversing those delays is to speed up the permitting process for major projects – a policy position supported by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. To that end, the Common Good proposed a "three-page legislative fix" in March of last year to amend the Fixing America's Surface Transportation or "FAST" Act with six key provisions:

  • Except in unusual circumstances, decisions to approve infrastructure projects should made in less than two years.
  • The chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) should get the authority to resolve all disputes regarding the scope and adequacy of environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • The CEQ should be given the authority to grant a "fast track" one-year review for projects developed with significant consultation with stakeholders and that demonstrate net environmental benefits.
  • The director of the Office of Management and Budget should get the authority to resolve interagency disputes.
  • If state and local permits are delayed past issuance of federal permits, the chief permitting officer should be authorized to grant final permits for projects of interstate or national significance.
  • Judicial review should limited to the question of whether the initial review failed to disclose material impacts and practical alternatives.

Photo: Dave Forster / VDOT

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