Mesabi Daily News
VIRGINIA — Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is cosponsoring legislation that would help states and local governments better leverage funds to help update the nation’s infrastructure.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Sen. Roy Blount of Missouri announced the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act in a bipartisan way.
An initial $10 billion infusion would be needed for the act.
The BRIDGE Act has several key provisions, including a rural component:
• It would establish independent, nonpartisan operations through public/private partnerships. An authority would be created and operate independently of existing federal agencies. It would be comprised of a board of directors with seven voting members and a CEO. All of them would be required to have proven expertise in financial management and be confirmed by the Senate.
• The authority would receive $10 billion in seed money to, hopefully, incentivize private sector investment and trigger $300 billion in total project funding.
• The authority would finance no more than 49 percent of the total costs so as not to crowd out private capital. It would offer low-interest loans and loan guarantees, subject to small additional fees, that would allow the authority to eventually become self-sustaining.
• All modes of transportation infrastructure as well as water/sewer and energy transmission projects would be eligible to apply.
• Projects would have to be at least $50 million and be of national or regional significance.
• Five percent of the authority’s overall funding would be dedicated to projects in rural areas and those ventures would only have a threshold of $10 million to be eligible.
• An Office of Technical and Rural Assistance would be created. Rural regional infrastructure accelerator programs would help identify potential projects that could receive financing and build out a pipeline of viable projects.
• The OTRA would also serve as a resource for localities to seek assistance on how to maximize the benefit of financial tools.
• An effort would be made to streamline the permitting process for approved projects by coordinating agencies to conduct reviews concurrently.
“For far too long we have neglected the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that millions of Americans rely on every day. This bipartisan legislation will help support critical investments in roads, bridges, ports, waterways, and airports — all while boosting our economy and creating jobs,” Klobuchar said.
The BRIDGE Act has been endorsed by 29 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition, along with several other groups.
There is no denying the infrastructure needs of the country, Democrats and Republicans agree. But how to fund the repair and reconstruction work often produces differences.