White House officials announced a list of measures to help stop the crumbling of American infrastructures, including almost a billion dollars in loans for the electrical grid. Both the Treasury Department as well as the Transportation Department came together for an “infrastructure summit” in Washington to bring together investors, philanthropists, construction firms and government agencies.
The move comes after Obama called for the summit this past July during a speech he gave at the I-495 bridge in Delaware, telling his Cabinet to get more involved in finding creative financing for those projects because Congress has not passed a long-term extension of the gas tax. President Obama signed a bill this past summer that keeps the highway trust fund alive for 10 months by using “pension smoothing” which indirectly takes money from corporate pension funds.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said investing in infrastructure is a sure way to create jobs and boost economic growth however spending has decreased over time. “Looking ahead, if we want to continue to lead the world, we are going to need modern highways and railroads, first-rate tunnels and bridges, and efficient power networks and water systems.”
This new push calls for $518 million in loans for 22 electric projects from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will build 5,600 miles of electrical lines in rural areas and improve the electric grid. Federal officials estimate it will cost $1 trillion to maintain the nation’s transportation, water, and electrical systems between now and 2020.
Secretary of Transportation spoke during the summit highlighting three projects that focus on what the President is trying to encourage:
- A $950 million to Florida for the I-4 project, a 21.1 mile roadway through Orlando, that will add four express toll lanes and replace or improve 15 interchanges and 71 bridges. The public-private project is the largest loan ever approved under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
- An allocation of $1.2 billion in federal bonds to help Pennsylvania engage in an ambitious plan to replace 600 bridges in 42 months. By bundling the projects together, the administration says it can streamline financing and environmental reviews.
- A $20 million grant program for planning commercial and residential developments near mass transit hubs.
Secretary Lew is scheduled to commission a report on transport and water projects that could have the most economic impact on the country, but may not be moving on schedule because of funding or political maneuvering. Both the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations are investing $1 million to support public-private partnerships for infrastructure.