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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Mica reiterates opposition to national infrastructure bank


Yesterday, U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said at a committee hearing that President Obama’s proposal for a “national infrastructure bank” to help finance infrastructure maintenance and improvements is “dead on arrival in Congress.”

“We do not need more federal bureaucracy,” said Mica in a prepared statement. “The federal government also has existing financing programs that serve the same purpose as a national infrastructure bank, such as TIFIA, RRIF and others, that we can improve and strengthen.”

Thirty-three state infrastructure banks already exist, “and we can ensure financing and build upon this foundation” without creating new levels of federal bureaucracy, he said.

Also at yesterday’s meeting, U.S. Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), who chairs the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee, said he opposed a national infrastructure bank.

“Current [federal] law allows a state to use their federal-aid funding to capitalize a state infrastructure bank and provide loans and loan guarantees to appropriate transportation projects that the state deems most important,” he said in a prepared statement.

However, the leader of a national bipartisan infrastructure coalition believes the creation of a national infrastructure bank would be the most effective way to leverage billions of private-sector dollars for infrastructure projects of national significance, including those that span state boundaries. Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future, called on Congress to establish the national financing mechanism as “an independent entity with strict guidelines” to ensure a transparent, streamlined process based on merit.

“The European Investment Bank, a similar institution in operation since 1957, has enabled European countries to build high-speed rail and modernize their ports and motorways,” Hale said in a prepared statement.

Building America’s Future recently released “Falling Apart and Falling Behind,” a report that details how U.S. transportation infrastructure systems are deteriorating and falling behind the infrastructure investments being made by other nations. For example, the report notes that U.S. infrastructure has fallen from first place in the World Economic Forum’s 2005 economic competitiveness ranking to 15th place.

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More News from 10/13/2011