Near-term high highway funding will require $32 billion — nearly three times the amount in September's economic stimulus package, according to Louisville, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson, who testified before Oberstar's committee later that month. Pointing out that nearly 70% of city roads are in subpar condition, Abramson urged that “additional highway stimulus funds not be distributed based on the current state-based status-quo system.”
Similarly, a former House member says one key to getting the economy back on track is to approve projects with as little interference as possible from lobbyists and bureaucrats.
“The next reauthorization bill has to include expedited permitting of projects,” former U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who served as speaker of the House from 1999 to 2006, told ARTBA convention attendees. “Not by ignoring environmental concerns, but not by getting hung up on them either.”
That, however, may prove to be a bone of contention with the new administration.
Cameron Davis, senior environmental and energy policy adviser to Obama's campaign, told attendees of the 81st annual Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) in October that one of Obama's top commitments is to environmentally sustainable infrastructure and that many of his other priorities stem from that.
“We're looking at a $500 billion funding gap in the next 20 years for infrastructure,” Davis said. “Look at the energy side of things: Municipalities spend 30% to 60% of their energy bills to move and treat water. It's very energy-intensive, and one of the ways to get more value for the dollar in infrastructure is to work with states and municipalities to move toward more renewable and less-expensive energy sources.”
Obama's ambitious environmental plan includes the proposal that at least 30% of the federal government's electricity should be derived from renewable sources by 2020 and that the buildings be 40% more efficient within the next five years and have zero emissions by 2025.A NEW BREED OF WATER REGULATIONS
As a senator from Illinois, Obama abstained from voting on the Water Resources and Development Act (WWRDA), designed to fund upgrades such as modernizing lock and dam systems on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and restoring the Florida Everglades.
However, he's said he would champion the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which Davis called the “lifeblood” of water infrastructure funding. “It's the machinery that helps deal with stormwater issues in urban areas. [Obama] also will take an active interest in agricultural runoff through the EPA to restrict animal feeding,” Davis told WEFTEC attendees.
When Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972, it addressed single-point sources of discharge. Since then, nonpoint sources such as stormwater and agricultural runoff have made reducing pollution much more challenging. “We need to do a much better job of regulating those sources,” Davis told WEFTEC attendees.