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White House Infrastructure Spending Plan Should Refocus on Maintenance for Roads, Water Treatment

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The White House is expected to announce a $200 billion infrastructure spending plan, with a focus on shortening the permitting process for construction, directing dollars to rural infrastructure, and workforce training.

Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Marc Scribner says that plan misdirects money on things that won’t fix real infrastructure problems:

The federal government could help improve roads, water treatment, and other critical infrastructure for Americans nationwide by lifting restrictions on construction permitting and giving more flexibility to states and local governments to fund their own infrastructure. But increasing federal infrastructure spending by 20 percent and failing to reform existing federal infrastructure programs will just make our problems worse. Until Congress and the administration commit to funding only nationally significant projects and taking care of what the federal government has already built, the United States remains on an unsustainable infrastructure investment path.

Scribner argues that cities and states, which own the bulk of public infrastructure like roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and mass transit, often do a poor job of maintaining those resources. Maintenance backlogs amount to hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide. Moreover, the problem with federal money is that it cannot, by law, be used for maintaining that critical infrastructure – it can only be used for new projects. Scribner urges a change in federal law to give cities and states more flexibility to direct dollars where they are needed most. 

For more from CEI's Marc Scribner on this topic, see: The Right Kind of Stimulus