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After ‘Infrastructure Week,’ Legislative Spadework Must Begin

This is an excerpt from an article originally posted here:

Last month the White House kicked off a series of ambitious policy proposals designed to improve the nation’s infrastructure, without having to spend a trillion in precious tax dollars. Starting with a vital plan to create a nongovernmental user-funded entity for air traffic control, and concluding with reforms to onerous permitting, over the course of a week the administration sketched a blueprint that rightfully relies on private-sector ingenuity, rather than public largesse to strengthen our economic backbone. But now, when Congress comes back after July 4 recess, the hard work begins — translating these smart ideas into legislation capable of making a speedy trip to the president’s desk.

Fortunately, neither President Donald Trump’s team nor members of Congress have to travel on a completely unpaved path here. Dozens of countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have successfully transformed their air traffic control systems to organizations responsive to customers rather than mired in bureaucracy. The House has already marked up a bill with these principles. Meanwhile, states such as Arizona, Iowa and Virginia are showing how to clear tax and regulatory obstacles to the next big leap in telecommunications infrastructure — 5G wireless. Equally important lessons, however, can be learned from long-standing infrastructure success stories, among them freight rail.

The Staggers Act of 1980, which among other steps provided greater latitude for railroads and their customers to negotiate freight-hauling rates, was along with airline and trucking regulatory reform, a sweeping effort to remove government’s stranglehold on infrastructure innovation.