Pence Pushes Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships Amid Failure in Indiana

Donald Cohen

Donald Cohen Executive Director, In the Public Interest

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence cancelled an interview with PBS out of the blue, provoking speculation. The growing controversy around former FBI director James Comey must’ve gotten to the man known for having a stone face.

But there may have been another reason.

On Monday, the state of Indiana announced it would take control of a troubled highway construction project, Interstate 69, between Bloomington and Martinsville. The contractor, the Spanish firm Insolux Corsan, is facing bankruptcy and had been missing deadlines for months.

Who brought Insolux Corsan to the state? Pence. As governor, he signed a 35-year public-private partnership with the firm in 2014 to finance, construct, and maintain a section of the highway. Pence said it would provide “better value for taxpayers” than if the state used the traditional — and cheaper — method of public financing. But with only half the project completed and taxpayers left cleaning up the mess, one wonders what he’d say now.

Monday also happened to be the kickoff of a weeklong rollout of the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan, which would rely heavily on public-private partnerships. On PBS, Pence was supposed to talk infrastructure — drawing attention to his failed project wouldn’t have been good for business.

 

The I-69 failure highlights the dangers of Trump’s plan. Rather than the $1 trillion the president promised on the campaign trail, the plan only commits $200 billion in direct federal spending, leaving cities and states desperate for funding and therefore more dependent on local taxes and the private sector to make up the difference.

Public-private partnerships are far more expensive than public financing and —without very strong protections — can hand control of infrastructure to private investors.

Trump’s plan wouldn’t rebuild America; it would encourage communities to make shortsighted deals with Wall Street and global corporations like Insolux Corsan.

Not only that, it would put a giant “for sale” sign on the country’s roads, bridges, water systems, and other infrastructure. Through a program based on a scheme pioneered in Australia — which crashed and burned — the federal government would pay a bonus to cities and states to outright sell public assets.

There’s no question we need to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure for the 21st century. But federal support should help cities and states maintain public control, avoid tolls and fees, create good jobs, and protect the environment.

Trump’s plan clearly helps someone else: Wall Street and global corporations.

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Reposted from The Huffington Post.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work