March 27, 2017

Infrastructure Needs Innovation

Tracy C. Miller

Senior Policy Research Editor

Michael Wilt

Former Senior Policy Writer and Editor
Summary

Building new roads, bridges, airports and railways may be a good idea, but the federal government is not best situated to choose those projects. By trusting in private investment and more local control, we can truly make America's infrastructure great again.

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If "The Art of the Deal" is President Donald Trump's governing philosophy, he should be careful not to replicate the bad deal Americans got in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as he pushes for improvements to our national infrastructure.

In Trump's February address to Congress, he promised $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending. "Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land," Trump insisted. The plan, according to Trump, will create "millions of new jobs."

While these are admirable goals, the critical question for policymakers in Congress and state legislatures is whether the traditional government infrastructure financing model – one that has largely failed – should be used again. Instead, we should embrace an innovation model that taps technology, private investment and state decision-making.

The top-down federal approach has been in place for a little over a century and is no longer meeting our needs. Today's technological breakthroughs and better management practices could revolutionize how we use and develop critical infrastructure. For these ideas to work, however, the federal government must take a backseat role.

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