April 16, 2012
By Jonathan Tisch
With Congress back in Washington, taking action on a long-term transportation bill is now at the top of the agenda. But when it comes to fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, Washington is “just out of money,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor explained in delaying a recent vote on the $109 billion legislation. But what if the answer – and the dollars – could be found outside the Beltway? Across America, innovative public-private efforts are showing our nation’s leaders not only how to upgrade aging infrastructure, but, more importantly, how to pay for it.
No component of our infrastructure has suffered more than aviation. Consider New York City.
Last summer, the Port Authority, which owns the region’s three major airports, delayed plans to rebuild LaGuardia’s Central Terminal Building due to budget constraints. When that terminal opened nearly 50 years ago, it was designed to handle 8 million passengers per year traveling on a generation of smaller airplanes. In 2011, the terminal was flooded with over 24 million passengers on larger jets that struggle to navigate its tight gates.
Rather than bow to an empty checkbook, the Port Authority issued a bold call for cost-effective financing solutions to this $3.6 billion infrastructure challenge. To the surprise of many, 15 bidders lined up with new ideas, including proposals by investors, airport construction firms, concession developers and several international companies.