Decades of underfunding infrastructure investments and relying upon a patchwork of reactive approaches has left us to face the harsh reality that our rapidly expanding urban centers are woefully unprepared for more frequent extreme weather events.
Thus far, Congress’ response has been inadequate. Where the need for new infrastructure investment is $5 trillion or more, the Senate’s “Infrastructure and Jobs Act” proposes just $550 billion of new spending. While the funding is welcome news, it still lands far short of the mark.
In New Jersey, we are rallying citizens to demand that Congress respond to this crisis by establishing a $5 trillion National Infrastructure Bank, as outlined in HR-3339, which is before the current session of Congress.
This $5 trillion public bank requires no new federal spending and no new federal taxes. It will not increase our national deficit. Repurposing existing Treasury debt – as was done previously in U.S. history – will finance urgently needed indispensable projects. The financing will allow us to tackle multiple projects simultaneously, such as water, sewer, rail, renewable power, and community broadband, all of which inhabit the same space.
Addressing infrastructure requires concerted federal action. Throughout our history, great presidents have deployed similar banks to build public works, including George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt.
As the most recent major storms, Henri and Ida, proved yet again, the infrastructure needs of New Jersey are daunting. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, some of the urgent concerns include:
37% of roads are considered to be in poor condition, costing New Jereyans upwards of $713 per driver in annual repairs and maintenance.
7.8% of bridges are rated structurally deficient.
Drinking water needs in New Jersey are an estimated $8.6 billion, including lead service line remediation.
229 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential.
New Jersey schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $1.58 billion, necessary to upgrade HVAC and improve energy efficiency.
$17.5 billion in wastewater needs, including addressing nonpoint source pollution and stormwater runoff.
Nearly $30 billion to repair and replace rail tunnels under the Hudson River and the Portal Bridge. High-speed rail will complement repair of the Northeast Corridor rail system and transform transportation in the region.
Several million to connect and expand NJ Transit rail lines across the State including the River Line, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, and the proposed Glassboro-Camden Line. All of these lines will seamlessly connect with Amtrak's Northeast Corridor operations for an expanded high-speed network.
The NIB can address this staggering need. It will create tens of millions of new jobs, pay Davis-Bacon wages, and mandate Buy American policies. The NIB will supercharge the U.S. economy and reopen American industry. It will create a stronger dedication to minority hiring, promote disadvantaged business enterprises, and spawn a resurgence of small business.
Support for the NIB has been growing nationwide. In New Jersey, the following have introduced or passed resolutions of endorsement: New Jersey Senate (passed SR-81) and Assembly (introduced AR-115); Trenton City Council; Mercer Co. Board of Freeholders; Elevator Constructors Local One (NJ-NY). National endorsements include: U.S. High Speed Rail Association; National Association of Minority Contractors; National Association of Counties; National Latino Farmers and Ranchers; American Sustainable Business Council; Eco Chamber of Commerce, and many more.
I urge everyone to support HR-3339 and contact your Congressional representative to enlist their sponsorship of this measure.
Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak, D-Middlesex, represents New Jersey’s 18th Legislative District and chairs the Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure & Natural Resources.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ infrastructure could benefit from a national infrastructure bank