Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News
WASHINGTON — Projects funded primarily with private sector capital are not ideal for states and cities outside of urban megaregions, the Senate’s top transportation policymaker said Feb. 8 during a hearing at which other senators and state transportation officials also criticized privately backed infrastructure projects.
“Funding solutions that involve public-private partnerships, as has been discussed by administration officials, may be innovative solutions for crumbling inner cities but do not work for rural areas,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over surface transportation policy.
Talks of modernizing the country’s infrastructure sparked a rare moment of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, as the Senate continues to split along party lines on Trump’s Cabinet nominees and regulatory rollbacks.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the panel’s ranking member who was not as critical of P3s, suggested Congress could borrow a page from states that have approved increases in their fuel taxes, such as Wyoming and New Jersey.
“You can make tough decisions for funding that people will forgive politicians for if they actually are convinced it’s going to meet a real need that they face every day,” Carper told reporters after the hearing.
The Delaware Democrat added he anticipates unveiling a highway funding plan that would rely on myriad options, such as raising taxes on fuel. Republican leaders, who reject raising the fuel tax, have yet to say when they intend to unveil a long-term funding measure for infrastructure projects.
The Trump administration has touted potential benefits of public-private partnerships, or P3s, in advancing big-ticket projects, such as bridges and tunnels. The White House has not indicated when it would unveil an infrastructure funding proposal. During the campaign, Trump pledged to provide Congress with such a proposal during his first 100 days in office.
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