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Trump’s first presidential trip abroad showcased a Saudi Arabian commitment to invest in $20 billion in a Blackstone investment fund targeting infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure is a big-tent sector…a policy sector that touches every person, every day.

This investment shored-up the Trump campaign promise to “build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, seaports, and airports.”

Private Investment Turns to Technology & Infrastructure

The 2017 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives overall U.S. infrastructure a grade of D+. Writing for Brookings Institute, Tomer and Kane note, “Infrastructure is a big-tent sector…a policy sector that touches every person, every day.” Everyone has a stake in whether Trump can live up to his campaign promise.

The consensus across the board is the need to invest more. The understanding we need to include emerging digital technologies in that investment is increasingly growing. Along with traditional investments in roads and bridges, digital investments in things like urban and rural broadband and autonomous vehicles need to be included in the mix.

Federal Funds to Seed Private Investment

Illustration of a car on the road in a futuristic city.

Trump has emphasized the use of federal funds to leverage private investment. For example, Trump’s plan calls for $137 billion in tax credits to incentivize private firms to invest $1 trillion over the next decade.

Based on presentations and discussions held during Infrastructure Week (May 15 – 19, 2017 in Washington, D.C.), Tomer and Kane suggest that infrastructure renewal will be driven from the bottom up, meaning local jurisdictions will determine what projects are needed. Federal and private matching funds will be used to pay for the projects.

During the sausage making process of developing the legislation to make this long-promised (well before Donald Trump entered the picture) infrastructure renewal a reality, it is important to keep in mind the people who use the infrastructure. Access, training, and opportunity are key words here. For taxpayer investments to achieve maximum ROI, everyone must have access to the digital technology and to training that will enable them to take advantage of new opportunities resulting from this access. In infrastructure’s big tent, social equity may be a key to success.