Lessons from the Interstate Highway System Applied to a National Infrastructure Bank

First, I must admit writing this paper was both an enjoyable and enlightening experience. While researching and writing, I learned a great deal about the history of our Nation’s transportation system and realized that our trajectory to the present has come through a very unique route. Despite the innovative steps that were taken early on to ensure both physical and economic growth through sound infrastructure, we have watched our world-class network dilapidated because of a lack of political progress to adapt to the changing times and environment. Ultimately, the purpose of my paper was to connect this history to the present and the future. In doing this I realized just how much the atmosphere surround the presidency has changed since the days of Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt to now.

Presidents Eisenhower and Roosevelt employed very different styles of achieving their political means but both were very successful with regards to infrastructure. During each of these administrations, major strides were made and innovative transportation policy was passed that focused on building a better future. Studies were commissioned and more importantly the results and conclusions were acted upon. However, in the present, and during the past few presidencies, progress has been far more incremental and has not evolved to fit the changing times. The solution developed in 1956 during Eisenhower’s presidency still remains the same structure for funding transportation infrastructure today with a few structure changes and increases in gas taxes. However, this funding structure does not fit our multimodal regionally focused urban and economic landscape with a growing number of alternatively fueled vehicles that are traveling less year over year. It is imperative that policy be developed and passed in Congress to address our Nation’s infrastructure challenges as a means of economic growth and to prevent the United States from becoming less economically competitive globally.

My paper focused on a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) as part of the solution to the challenges the United States infrastructure system is facing. When I began my paper I thought that the creation of an NIB would have a profound impact on moving the meter and making progress toward redirecting the current path of our infrastructure system. However, through research, conversations, and reviewing policies that have been developed I have found that an NIB can only provide a small improvement on a problem that is massive. The investment shortfall that the U.S. faces in transportation infrastructure is over $1 trillion and this number is expected to increase if major steps are not taken soon. While an NIB has the potential to slow this increase and potentially decrease this $1 trillion shortfall, there must be a far more comprehensive reform in transportation funding and investment on the federal level for any major progress to be made. The reform will have to address the funding sources used for infrastructure, the future amount of the gas tax, and even the transition to other revenue collection models for transportation- like a vehicle miles traveled tax. The solution to our nation’s problems will not come without strong political leadership and a willingness to step away from the historic conventional methods to find a sustainable solution for decades to come. An NIB can be a first step in innovative solutions to our infrastructure challenges, but the root of the problem lies in a more robust overhaul for the transportation sector.

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One Response to Lessons from the Interstate Highway System Applied to a National Infrastructure Bank

  1. vivian0405 says:

    Hi Jacob, find it here. I totally agree that a major transformation of national transport paradigm requires strong federal leadership, which is also a main conclusion of my paper. Actually mine focuses more on political network of collaborative policymaking, while it seems that you pay more attention to the founding issues. I think this is why we’re in different group. Anyway it is very nice to find another fellow working on the same topic. Hope to discuss more on our conference!

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