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Former Transportation Secretary Lahood for an Infrastructure Bank

Jan. 2, 2017 (EIRNS)—Calling the United States’ economic infrastructure "one giant pothole," former Transportation Secretary (2009-2013) and Congressman Ray Lahood said that a national infrastructure bank was required to fix it, in a column published by the Miller Center of the University of Virginia. The column is a precis of a longer report by Lahood to come out Jan. 10, which will be widely read in business and Congressional circles. It is part of a "presidential first years" project. Lahood has a reputation as a strong advocate and creative thinker on financing new infrastructure, who was responsible for the $9 billion high-speed rail funding in the 2009 "Stimulus Act."

Lahood reports that broken-down or inadequate transport infrastructure costs drivers $160 billion annually in wasted time and fuel, and an average family $3,400/year in disposable income. He notes that during the last 15 years (Bush/Obama’s term, though he does not say so), the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the competitiveness of American infrastructure has fallen from first to 11th internationally.

He puts a particular focus on ports and the "land-side infrastructure that conveys goods to and from them. With the opening of the new Panama Canal, only three U.S. ports will be able to handle the ships coming through it—Baltimore, Norfolk, and Miami—and only one, Norfolk, will have the land-side infrastructure to handle the freight volume.

"To compete on a global scale and provide our citizens with the quality of life they have come to expect, the United States must have a first-rate infrastructure. This means our road, bridge, transit, aviation, port, water, electric grid and broadband networks must be able to accommodate current and future demands."

Lahood in Congress advocated printing a large issue of "Greenbacks" for infrastructure. He does not do that here, but endorses just about every other method of financing infrastructure yet proposed. But he concludes that

"funding and financing options must include establishing a national infrastructure bank or authority that can leverage investment from the private sector";

and state and local governments must invest in this as well.

"The new administration," he concludes the precis, "will have an immense opportunity and responsibility to make these transformations happen."