Senators Wyden (D-OR) and Hoeven (R-ND) recently introduced the Transportation and Regional Infrastructure Project (TRIP) Bonds Act of 2011 which the National Association of Manufacturers supports. While TRIP Bonds will not solve the problem of shrinking balances in the Highway Trust Fund or a replacement for fuel tax revenues that fund critical transportation investments, the one-time $50B in new funding through bonding will provide much needed relief to states charged with building and maintaining a national network of transportation infrastructure.
Multiple modes of transportation would benefit from the bipartisan Wyden-Hoeven proposal, including roads, bridges, rail, transit, ports, and certain aspects of the inland waterway system (excluding locks and dams). The TRIP Bonds proposal recognizes the enormous infrastructure gap facing the nation and seeks to use innovative financial tools to help meet long-term infrastructure needs.
TRIP Bonds will be 100 percent targeted to eligible transportation projects and allocates 2 percent of the $50 billion to each state using State Infrastructure Banks as the primary vehicle to issue the bonds. The fair distribution of bonding authority avoids contentious equity issues among the states and also prohibits the practice of earmarking.
Given the important role manufacturers play in supporting the transportation infrastructure supply chain (equipment, machinery, steel, asphalt, drainage systems, etc.) and the billions in unmet infrastructure needs that must be addressed in order to remain globally competitive, we encourage House and Senate leaders to advance this proposal during the ongoing surface transportation reauthorization discussion.
While other nations are building and modernizing roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and ports at a rapid clip to serve manufacturing economies in Asia, South America and Europe, we need all the practical solutions we can find to help our economy prosper and grow.
Robyn Boerstling is director of transportation and infrastructure policy, National Association of Manufacturers.