Investing in Infrastructure

Source: Peter Orzag, Congressional Budget Office, Testimony before the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, July 10, 2008

From the blog:
The testimony makes the following key points:
• Estimates from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other sources indicate that additional spending of up to tens of billions of dollars each year on transportation infrastructure projects could be justified. Some of that spending would simply maintain the current performance of existing infrastructure; other projects would improve performance to the extent that the economic benefits exceeded the costs (although some projects would have net benefits that were smaller than those that could be obtained from spending on items besides infrastructure).
• Although the rationale for some additional spending is probably strong, the economic returns on specific projects vary widely. Accordingly, even if the Congress were to increase spending, it would be important to identify which projects provided the largest potential benefit from limited budgetary resources.
• Some of the demand for additional spending on infrastructure could be met by providing incentives to use existing infrastructure more efficiently and by devoting current budgetary resources to their highest valued uses. For example, the Department of Transportation has reported that the demand for new spending on highways could be reduced by as much as $20 billion annually if congestion pricing were implemented to encourage efficient use of existing infrastructure.
• A special-purpose entity, such as a federally chartered infrastructure bank, could provide funding for infrastructure outside of the annual appropriation process but would not be a source of “free money”: Any reduction in the federal shares of project costs (obtained by reducing grant sizes or by shifting from grants to loans or loan guarantees with smaller subsidy costs) would require greater shares to be borne by project users, state or local taxpayers, or both.

See also:
Webcast
Issues and Options in Infrastructure Investment, May 2008

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