It’s perhaps difficult to see any good coming from the double whammy of a global pandemic and economic recession. But from crisis comes opportunity.
America needs to invest in infrastructure of all kinds – highways, transit, airports, water and sewer, broadband, energy and more. That was true before COVID-19 began killing people and economies. It’s even more so now — to put people to work, encourage private investment and improve health and safety.
We have good reason to expect that leaders in Washington will finally agree on a major infrastructure investment. When Nancy Pelosi, Lindsay Graham, Donald Trump and Andrew Cuomo are in basic agreement on the value of infrastructure investment – or anything – we should be optimistic.
So now is the time for federal, state and local government leaders to develop plans for “shovel ready” projects that can be quickly launched. In the Great Recession of 2009, we learned that jumping quickly into major construction projects isn’t easy.
That’s because America’s plodding process of government regulation ensures that improvement projects that could be planned, discussed, designed and started in a matter of months take many years to get to construction.
Here are five factors for leaders to consider:
1. Cut the red tape. Streamline reviews by multiple government agencies. Fast-track planning processes but ensure citizens have plenty of avenues for sharing thoughts and getting involved.
2. Focus on projects that are catalysts for private investment and job creation. While government coffers are running low, billions of dollars in private capital is ready to invest in reliable returns that infrastructure can offer. Public-private partnerships should be among the solutions.
3. Prioritize investments that bring us together – literally and figuratively. Broadband expansion throughout rural America makes it possible for people to work “together” while living hundreds of miles apart.
4. Fast-forward with game-changing technology. Dedicated lanes for connected trains of self-driving 18-wheelers seem to be wiser investments than another coat of asphalt for a lightly traveled road.
5. Improving health and safety should drive decisions. With innovative approaches, we can upgrade airports and airplanes in ways that keep people and freight flying even in a pandemic.
It’s 2020. Let’s get to work.