How Democratic Presidential Candidates Plan to Solve the U.S. Infrastructure Crisis

A record number of Democrats is running for president during the 2020 election cycle. Each has his or her own ideas about how to improve the nation’s infrastructure, including its aging — and failing — bridges and roads. They also differ on how to pay for the work that must get done to keep drivers safeand traffic moving.

There are a few things some of the candidates agree on. Each with a policy to deal with legacy transportation issues acknowledges that bridges and roads across the United States are far too congested. They also agree that bridges constructed in the middle of the last century are long past their prime and urgently need costly repairs, renovations or complete replacement.

What’s The Current Administration Doing?

They also pretty much disagree with President Trump’s proposal which dates back to the early days of his administration, It recommended a $1 trillion funding package that relied heavily on Incentives to encourage private and local funding.

Many Democrats believe it provided too little direct funding to tackle the scope of the current bridge infrastructure crisis. Republicans believed the reliance on local resources would benefit larger municipalities and penalize rural areas, which many of them represent. These areas would not receive adequate funding because private and localized resources would be more heavily allocated toward bridge and road infrastructure that’s used by the most people.

The Trump campaign — and Republicans overall — have not released a “next generation” plan to take on this critical issue. Still, it is a campaign talking point for President Trump, so a new approach to the problem should be forthcoming.

What’s The Plan?

It’s still unclear how Democrats plan to pay for this expensive, budget-busting work and how renovating and rebuilding bridges should be prioritized relative to other infrastructure projects. Many believe addressing environmental concerns is more important than repairing or replacing existing bridge and road assets.

The most popular infrastructure funding option for Democratic presidential candidates is to tax corporations and wealthy individuals. One way to do this, proposed by several of them, aligns with the position supported by most of the current Democratic leaders in Congress. They recommend that budget dollars come from rolling back the 2017 Republican-sponsored tax cuts. The changes to the tax code would bring in additional money from corporations and wealthy individuals, which would be used to pay for projects. This approach has been rejected by the current president and Republicans in congress.

What Do The Candidates Think?

The first candidate to come out with a specific infrastructure proposal was Amy Klobuchar. She has made it a centerpiece of her pragmatic, centrist campaign. Her plan calls for a $1 trillion investment in all types of infrastructure, including traditional transportation projects, environmentally-friendly initiatives and improvements to the nation’s water supply. Approximately $650 billion of the total spend would come from federal government funds. The rest would be raised by local agencies and municipalities and through different types of partnerships and funding mechanisms.

Joe Biden, the former vice president, and a leading candidate in many presidential polls, supports a large, yet undefined, investment in infrastructure projects. He has made it a part of his emerging environmental platform. It includes a broad range of initiatives related to improving how energy is generated and developing communities that can withstand changing climate conditions. The only spending he has specifically called for to date is $400 billion over the next decade to reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels. Bridges are a lesser priority for the Biden campaign. He has not defined how he plans to deal with their decline.

Bernie Sanders, another leading candidate, has been a vocal supporter of the Green New Deal proposal supported by many progressive Democrats. It includes significant infrastructure upgrades. He’s also a proponent of building out high speed rail, increasing use of electric vehicles and expanding public transit in service of reducing carbon emissions. He currently has little planned for bridges, roads and other traditional infrastructure legacy projects.

Similar to Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson‘s proposal is focused on the environment. It promotes the use of electric vehicles and recommends building more charging stations. It also includes plans for rebuilding and enhancing rail lines and investing in public transit all over the country. Again, she currently has nothing planned for legacy transportation assets.

Similarly, Julian Castro, has called for a climate-conscious infrastructure plan that includes a $200 billion Green Infrastructure Fund that would be used for public transportation, electric vehicle charging stations and other mostly energy-related things. He has little set aside for rehabilitating bridges, roads and other existing infrastructure.

Beto O’Rourke includes a proposal for investing in infrastructure as part of a broader, decade-long, $1.5 trillion plan to respond to climate change. A significant part of that would go toward research rather than project-specific work. The plan includes specific grants dedicated to transportation initiatives that lower commute times, cut the number of vehicle crashes and reduce carbon emissions. Some of these could include improving current bridge infrastructure.

Surprisingly, Elizabeth Warren, the candidate with a plan for everything, has no infrastructure proposal. To date, the only thing she’s said is that all related projects should be built using American-made materials manufactured by workers who are paid a fair wage.

By contrast, Seth Moulton’s infrastructure platform is one of the few that focuses on repairing traditional transportation infrastructure, especially bridges and roads. He also supports enhancing high speed rail, as well as water-related projects and rural broadband.

The candidate most vocal about about bridges and roads is Michael Bennet. He has outlined plans to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and expand existing transit systems and airports. He’s also committed to making rural broadband more accessible.

Another leading candidate, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg calls for a major federal investment in transportation, along with clean water, broadband in rural areas and projects that respond to climate change.

Andrew Yang has proposed spending $1 trillion over five years — a significant amount of money over a relatively short period of time — on unspecified infrastructure projects.

John Hickenlooper, who was one of the first candidates to leave the race, proposed a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure focused heavily on clean energy and rural broadband.

John Delaney has been the only candidate to take a traditionally unpopular approach to funding infrastructure spend. He wants to raise the gas tax, combined with raising corporate tax rates. His proposal is among the most detailed of any candidate running for president. It’s a $1 trillion, 10-year plan with a $250 billion federal contribution. The rest would come from state and local contributions, along with public-private partnerships. He also proposes a $50 billion infrastructure bank to fund transportation projects, along with energy, water and telecommunications initiatives.

One Democratic candidate stands out from all the rest. Tulsi Gabbert recommends paying for infrastructure by cutting spending on wars and other military conflicts overseas. She’s not the only political leader to make a similar proposal. Former President Barack Obama endorsed the same idea. However, Congress never supported it.

We will continue to provide information on this topic as candidates release more detailed proposalsabout how they plan to deal with the nation’s bridge infrastructure crisis.