ACEC Research Institute Panel Pushes for New Federal Council to Coordinate Infrastructure Policies and Funding
Washington, D.C. – A panel of national infrastructure funding experts pressed for establishment of a new federal infrastructure planning council that could coordinate multiple agency policies and funding programs improve federal response to the nation’s infrastructure needs.
Panelists applauded new strategies outlined in the “America’s New Playbook for Infrastructure” developed by the non-profit Accelerator for America in collaboration with the new National Infrastructure Partnership, which includes the ACEC Research Institute, WSP USA, HNTB and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, among others. The playbook offers strategies for a fundamental shift away from “a current top-down, outmoded federal funding model,” including the need for more autonomy by local governments on local infrastructure needs.
During the Research Institute’s webinar titled: “Holistic Infrastructure Planning and Design” panelist and Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt called the playbook an important tool in finally fulfilling promises made to substantially improve U.S. infrastructure. “We’ve got to it done this time. Whatever moves us forward has to be appreciated.”
In addition to Holt, the panel included: Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Robert Puentes, president/CEO, Eno Center for Transportation; and Beth Osbourne, director, Transportation for America.
Cisneros said it was time to “coordinate disjointed approaches” to infrastructure funding which he noted is divided into three levels—county, state and federal—with each having its own silos.
“It’s not surprising that local communities are struggling with getting the funding they need,” Cisneros said. “We need more coordination at the federal level—an infrastructure planning group that’s higher than the cabinet level,” he said, adding that such a new planning group would be more willing to listen to local leaders who have a better sense of what their community needs.
Puentes agreed, adding that “it’s a challenging time to know Washington’s priorities, but knowing priorities of leaders at the local level is clear.” He also emphasized the need to redefine and expand the scope of the federal discretionary grant program. “Infrastructure is not just one thing, but an abstract collection of structures that all provide benefits to the community.”
Transportation for America Director Beth Osbourne pointed to more adoption of “Complete Streets” design principles by transportation designers and planners. Complete Street designs add elements to make roadways safer and more accessible for all modes of transportation including transit, pedestrian and bike traffic. The playbook recommends national standardization to help local governments plan innovative street designs without federal mandates requiring them.
Osbourne stated that Complete Streets are exactly the opposite of traditional designs meant for higher speeds. “What results is a roadway not designed for anything else and ends up becoming a physical barrier to improved safety, access and economic development.
The “Holistic Infrastructure Planning and Design” panel discussion was part of the ACEC Research Institute’s “A New Playbook on National Infrastructure Policy” webinar series. For more information, click here.
For more information about the ACEC Research Institute, visit its website at www.acecresearchinstitute.org.
The ACEC Research Institute is the research arm of the American Council of Engineering Companies – the business association of the nation’s engineering industry. The ACEC Research Institute’s mission is to deliver knowledge and business strategies that guide and elevate the engineering industry and to be the leading source of knowledge and thought leadership for creating a more sustainable, safe, secure and technically advanced built environment.