4/21/2008House Speaker Endorses Toll Road Bank
US House Speaker advocates federal bank to finance toll roads and other infrastructure projects.
The Speaker of the US House Representatives on Friday endorsed a plan to create a National Infrastructure Bank that would use federal taxpayer funds to provide financial backing for new tolls roads and other large-scale infrastructure projects. The proposal (view details) already has the legislative support of both contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senators Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and Barack Obama (D-Illinois). Pelosi announced her endorsement at a Regional Plan Association luncheon in New York City.
"Rebuilding America is a national security issue," Pelosi said. "Ninety percent of our oil imports are used for transportation. With investments in public transportation, more efficient roadways, and a broadband backbone that removes commuters from roads, we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce its implications on our foreign policy."
The proposed National Infrastructure Bank would administer direct subsidies and issue bonds with terms of up to fifty years to promote mass transit, public housing, toll roads, toll bridges and wastewater treatment systems. The bank would encourage local public agencies to partner with private for-profit entities to develop projects worth at least $75 million each. Pelosi suggested that the public should trust that the government would spend toll revenue wisely.
"The task we face is so large that it demands the involvement of every level of government and the private sector," Pelosi said. "User fees will continue to play a major role in financing many types of infrastructure. Reliance on tolls for transportation funding is likely to continue and expand; our challenge will be to ensure that tolls are equitable, that they reduce congestion for everyone, and the revenues are used to improve infrastructure, not siphoned off for other purposes."
At the same time, Pelosi emphasized that the proposed bank would promote social policy goals.
"We face two opportunities: to invest in our nation's infrastructure, and to reverse climate change," Pelosi said. "We must do both. We can and must do both at the same time."
If enacted, the National Infrastructure Bank would have at least one state-level counterpart. Earlier this month, Governor Sonny Perdue (R) signed legislation creating the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank which will help the state finance new toll roads.