Why Now Is the Right Time for Congress to Rebuild with Cities

February 15, 2019 - (4 min read)

On Thursday, February 7th, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, California testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The following is a selected set of excerpts from the Mayor’s testimony at the infrastructure briefing: “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investing in Our Nation’s Infrastructure Cannot Wait”.

The greater Los Angeles region – a true infrastructure capital in America – is home to the biggest port complex in the Western Hemisphere, the country’s busiest origin and destination airport, and the largest local transportation investment in U.S. history, times two. In L.A., we understand that our infrastructure is the foundation for not only how we move goods, cars, and families, but for the long-term strength of our economy.

I am proud to add my perspective as a mayor, as a representative of local leaders who live where we work; who see the impact of our policies and our actions in our own neighborhoods every day; who deal with the current state of America’s infrastructure on our own streets – whether that means filling potholes, repairing bridges, expanding mass transit, or securing a clean and reliable water supply.

What’s more, every one of us in public life – in the U.S. Capitol and the White House, in state legislatures, and in city halls – must never lose sight of the long haul. That means focusing on immediate maintenance of our subways, rail lines, pipelines, and more, while keeping a keen eye on how we can establish steady, lasting revenue streams so our infrastructure does not fall into dire disrepair in the future, with no rapid way to fix it.

Our task should begin with the creation of a National Infrastructure Program, which would help usher in a new era of prosperity, innovation, and economic health for our nation. And it would ensure the United States of America retains its economic leadership and prosperity in the 21st century.

Failing to make long-term investments has serious consequences. A recent assessment by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority showed that a one-year delay results in cost increases of at least 3.5% for capital projects. That translates to $35 million of increased costs for every billion in planned spending for highway and transit projects.

L.A. will invest $15 billion in the next ten years in water treatment, storage, and distribution. We will clean up our groundwater, build out our recycled water systems, and provide incentives for businesses and residents to capture and reuse. By 2035, 50% of L.A.’s water will be local.

We are already at work executing our $120 billion infrastructure plan — to create a truly comprehensive rail network, ease congestion on our freeways, and fix our local roads.

This kind of nation-leading investment isn’t just happening in L.A.

Altogether, since 2016, cities, regions, and states have voted to invest nearly $250 billion to modernize their infrastructure. Some say that this is evidence the federal government does not need to play a role – that cities and regions are just fine on their own. That conclusion is misguided. This local investment means that there has never been a better time for federal partners to take action on nationally significant projects. Matching those local dollars with an increased federal investment and creating an environment for public private partnerships will ensure that we can reach our goals and reverse the decline that has plagued us for too many years.

For the U.S. to have the robust infrastructure we all envision and to be competitive at the global stage, a significant amount of new federal funding is necessary. That is why Congress should identify and allocate new federal funds to yield greater returns and outcomes.

As I stated at the outset, this is a remarkable time for the cause of transportation and infrastructure. And as women and men who feel the impact of our investments firsthand, you can count on America’s mayors to rally and campaign for whatever this country demands now and into the future. We will continue to stand united, across party lines, across state boundaries, across the business community and labor unions, around what is needed to get us over the finish line and toward an era of modern infrastructure.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s full testimony can be read here, and the full hearing can be seen here.

The National League of Cities (NLC) thanks the Mayor for his leadership and for challenging Congress to join cities, towns and villages in efforts to rebuild and reimagine America’s infrastructure! We hope you will join us in telling Congress we want to support an infrastructure effort by sending your own letter here.