America 2050 Update: January 27, 2009

In This Update:
  • House and Senate Release Draft Stimulus Bills - Less Infrastructure $$ Than Hoped
  • New America 2050 Policy Paper: "Not the Macquarie Model"
  • America 2050 Spring Research Seminar - Call for Papers Deadline Extended
  • Megaregion News: Future of the Northeast Corridor Report and Advocacy by Northeast Biz Alliance
  • Save the Date: America 2050 Spring Forums
  • About America 2050

House and Senate Release Draft Stimulus Bills - Less Infrastructure $$ Than Hoped

In the past weeks the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have released drafts of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, proposing about $825 billion of federal spending on energy infrastructure and efficiency, science research and broadband, transportation infrastructure, education and school repair, health care and Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and tax cuts.

The draft bills propose many worthwhile infrastructure investments, particularly in the areas of energy transmission, efficiency, and building retrofits, but the amounts proposed for transportation infrastructure fall considerably short of what we had hoped for when President-elect Obama promised the "largest investment in infrastructure since the National Highway System."

The House bill proposes about $43 billion for transportation infrastructure, including $30 billion for highway infrastructure, $9 billion for transit, $1.1 billion for intercity rail, and $3 billion for airport improvement grants.

The Senate bill, which was just released, proposes about the same amount for transportation, but apportioned differently -- $27 billion for highway improvements, $8.4 billion for transit, $5.5 billion for competitive grants to state and local governments for surface transportation investments, $1.1 billion for intercity passenger rail, and $1.3 billion for aviation. Though curiously not included in the Senate appropriations committee's press release, the draft Senate bill also includes an additional $2 billion in federal grants for a high-speed rail corridor program.

America 2050 is working with the T 4 America Coalition, which is making a push to include an amendment to the economic recovery package that would provide at least $2 billion in operating assistance funds for public transportation agencies, like New York's MTA, that are threatening severe service cutbacks. For more information on their campaign, click here.

One highlight is that the draft stimulus legislation includes a key accountability provision proposed by America 2050 in its December 16 statement on the stimulus, in which we called for the creation of a National Recovery and Renewal Council that would report directly to the White House and develop criteria and accountability measures for the distribution of federal funding. A new Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board would fulfill a similar role by providing oversight, establishing a website with information on recovery spending, and providing early warning of problems.

New America 2050 Policy Paper: "Not the Macquarie Model"

A new America 2050 policy paper, released today, proposes a novel approach to funding a comprehensive reinvestment in the infrastructure of the United States.  It proposes moving from tax-supported public services to a revenue-supported enterprise system. The report, titled "Not the Macquarie Model:  Using U.S. Sovereign Wealth to Renew America's Civil Infrastructure," is authored by Richard Little, director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy.

The core idea of the paper's proposal is to utilize a combination of public and institutional pension funds and Social Security Trust Funds to provide equity and debt shares to fund public works projects.  A sustainable revenue stream, such as imposed tolls on highways, would be used to pay returns to equity for investors and loans.

The proposal suggests that a National Infrastructure Investment Fund, which was initially proposed in 1926 and revisited with The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2007, could be the vehicle to administer such a program.

Download the paper from the America 2050 website.


America 2050 Spring Research Seminar - Call for Papers Deadline Extended

The deadline for submitting a paper proposal to the 2009 America 2050 Research Seminar, to take place in Healdsburg, CA, March 30-31, 2009, has been extended to this Friday, January 30. The Seminar is sponsored by Regional Plan Association and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and will focus on federal policies for revitalizing underperforming cities, regions, and rural areas.  The seminar will also explore the interconnections between megaregions and their adjacent rural and frontier regions as part of a national growth strategy for the United States. 

View the entry on the America 2050 website and download the call for papers.


Megaregion News: Future of the Northeast Corridor Report and Advocacy by Northeast Biz Alliance

The Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility, a coalition of more than 30 chambers of commerce and civic organizations in the Northeast megaregion, urged the House and Senate leadership, Appropriations Committees, and the Northeast Senate delegations in letters on Friday to increase funding in the economic stimulus bill for transit and rail - the backbone of the Northeast economy. They argued that increased funding will put people to work making necessary rail improvements and ensure the long-term economic competitiveness of the Northeast Megaregion.

The Alliance also released a report, "The Future of the Northeast Corridor," which details the improvements needed to increase rail mobility and stimulate economic growth. The report notes that the Northeast megaregion is expected to face dramatic increases in rail traffic - adding additional stress to the existing infrastructure and competitiveness of the Northeast.

Read more about the Business Alliance's advocacy and download the report.


Save the Date: America 2050 Spring Forums

America 2050 will continue its series of "Rebuilding and Renewing America" infrastructure forums this spring with major events in Atlanta, New York City, and Orlando. Save the date for these megaregion infrastructure forums, starting in late March 2009:

March 23: The Case for a National Infrastructure Policy: The Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion in the Global Economy. 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Georgia Tech Global Learning Center, Atlanta, GA.

April 17: America 2050: Building the Next Economic: RPA's 19th Annual Regional Assembly, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Waldorf=Astoria, New York City. Click here for more information.

May 7-8: Super Regional Leadership Conference at the Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate. May 8 will be devoted to a discussion of "Infrastructure for Tomorrow; The Florida Megaregion and a National Infrastructure Plan."


About America 2050

America 2050 is a national initiative to develop an infrastructure plan for the United States that will position America for equitable, sustainable and prosperous economic growth. We are developing strategies that anticipate the challenges of rapid population growth, climate change, mobility, and ensuring national prosperity in a changing global economy.

A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of megaregions - large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of America's growth by mid-century will take place - and how to organize infrastructure investments, environmental protection, and economic opportunities for all at this new scale.

America 2050 includes a network of partners in megaregions across the country developing long-range strategies for sustainable growth and prosperity. A list of America 2050 partners is available on the America 2050 website at www.America2050.org.


America 2050 Update
Edited by Petra Todorovich
Director, America 2050
Contact: Petra@rpa.org
212-253-5795