U.S. Treasury: $1 On Infrastructure = $7 In Benefits

Infrastructure projects can return up to seven dollars in economic benefits for every dollar spent, according to the the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s recent report, 40 Proposed U.S. Transportation and Water Infrastructure Projects of Major Economic Significance. From the report:

Infrastructure of all types, but especially transportation and water, is the one asset that is used every day by every business and household. Most analysis of the economic impact of infrastructure focuses on direct benefits to travelers and consumers and indirect benefits from people and industries that depend on these changes.

More important, however, are changes as individuals and businesses divert from business as usual to adjust their practices in response to improved infrastructure. As the transportation network is improved, either through new assets or improvements to existing ones, travelers reap a variety of benefits. Improvements to safety translate into lives saved and injuries avoided. Improvements to bottlenecks translate into time saved. New connections allow existing trips to be made by a shorter route, translating into reduced travel costs. And collectively, less vehicle miles traveled and less idling to accomplish the nation’s travel needs translates into cleaner air. When flooding is avoided or cleaner water delivered, resources are not spent recovering from damage and health is not compromised. When these things happen, the economy typically becomes more efficient, which supports long-term economic competitiveness.

The report’s major findings, however, are that that most modern infrastructure projects are not national but local in nature, and that lack of funds is by far the greatest challenge to completing projects – over and above other real challenges, including significantly increasing capital costs, extended regulatory requirements, and lack of consensus among various public and private stakeholders.

[L]ack of adequate funds is the major hurdle to completing these projects. While responsibility for this shortfall can be shared among many government agencies, it is hard not to recognize a long running reluctance by legislative decision makers at all levels to increase funding for infrastructure.

…[T]here is limited interest in regional or even national projects. Part of this problem results from a general reduction in federal funds for major transportation and water infrastructure programs. This has shifted the responsibility for infrastructure funding to state and local governments.

MACo has adopted a Local infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland (#LIFT4MD) as a top priority for the 2017 legislative session. MACo advocates for strong and predictable funding restoration to local roads and bridges – whose funding was slashed dramatically during the Great Recession and not meaningfully restored. MACo also advocates for a comprehensive assessment of the status, needs, and funding of critical infrastructure statewide. For more information on the LIFT4MD effort, see MACo’s website for details.