GIIA CEO Andy Rose blogs about his recent visit to Washington D.C. for the annual Infrastructure Week.
Washington DC never disappoints and once again it was fascinating to visit this exciting City during Infrastructure Week (May 14-18). This was a whistle stop visit to catch up with GIIA members and stakeholders and hear Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s keynote speech. One of the comments she made that resonated with me was “everyone gets the importance of infrastructure, the difficulty is how you pay for it”. I can only applaud this succinct commentary which is not universally understood.
As has been widely reported, what was conspicuous by its absence in much of the discussion on my visit was the Administration’s Infrastructure Plan. There seems to be a general view that with the mid-terms pending, legislative progress is unlikely in 2018, although House of Representatives Chairman of the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, Bill Shuster, is reported to be still working to bring forward a bill to the House before his time as Chairman of the Committee ends at the close of the year.
There has been some progress around permitting and specific areas such as aviation, but somewhat short of the high hopes on the GIIA delegation visit almost 12 months’ ago. It feels that there is now wide recognition that while Capitol Hill pontificates, States and Cities must get on with it. State and local governments account for 75 percent of all public infrastructure spending in the U.S. and own more than 90 percent of all non-defense public infrastructure assets, while Governors are responsible for making the investment decisions that direct the majority of the $420 billion spent on U.S. infrastructure every year. This underlines the importance of legislation across the States to enable access to private capital to deliver much needed investment and for the national Government to provide centres of excellence so that localities are not left to create a large number of bespoke solutions.
The US has a great track record of can-do attitude, innovation and the deepest of capital markets so the ingredients are all there. I remain optimistic that over time, this market will deliver great infrastructure utilising GIIA member investment, but it is clear that this will not occur overnight.