CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Dec. 14 the nation needs an infrastructure bank like that in South Carolina to help pay for billions in road, waterway, energy system and other national needs.
Rendell, speaking on behalf of Building America’s Future, the bipartisan group he formed with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the old way of handling infrastructure projects in Washington has to change.
It’s now done without a federal capital budget and with infrastructure competing with defense and other needs in the federal operating budget, he said.
Individual lawmakers work to get earmarks into the budget for transportation projects, but they generally don’t get enough for big projects, the governor said.
“We need a national infrastructure bank staffed by experts ... and you compete on the cost-benefit analysis and the bank makes good decisions,” he said.
Some of the money provided in the recent federal stimulus bill was for such competitive transportation grants.
Charleston received $10 million to improve drainage on U.S. 17 on the city’s peninsula, an area that generally floods during heavy rains.
South Carolina’s infrastructure bank was created in 1997 to leverage limited state funding into larger amounts through borrowing for costly highway and bridge projects.
Rendell, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and local business leaders spoke with reporters at the Charleston Maritime Center that looks out on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge — the $632 million cable-stayed bridge across the Cooper River that was one of the projects the state bank was created to finance.
Before it was created, there was talk for decades about building a new bridge, but the money could never be found.
Building America’s Future estimated the nation needs roughly $200 billion annually to meet its transportation needs. Rendell warned the United States is slipping badly behind Europe and Asia in improving its infrastructure.
“I think what this nation should do is to devote itself — as every one of the G-7 nations has done — to a multi-trillion dollar effort,” he said. “Think of what that would do for the American economy. Think what it would do for the construction industry.”
Even in tough economic times, he added, Americans are willing to spend on infrastructure.
Rendell said that during November’s elections, about 70 percent of ballot referendums to increase taxes to invest in infrastructure were approved nationwide.