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July 22, 2014

White House Announces Build America Investment Initiative

On July 17, 2014, the Obama Administration announced the "Build America Investment Initiative," a government-wide effort intended to promote investment in the nation's infrastructure.  The initiative will focus on innovative financing and signals the Administration's intent to collaborate with the private sector and state and local governments to facilitate public-private partnerships (PPPs).  More specifically, the initiative includes three major components:

  • Build America Transportation Investment Center.  Housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation, this will serve as a one-stop shop for state governments, local governments, and the private sector to encourage the use of PPPs.  It will provide resources and technical assistance to encourage the use of federal credit assistance programs, including the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program, Private Activity Bonds (PABs), and the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program. 
  • Build America Interagency Working Group.  Co-chaired by the Secretaries of Transportation and Treasury, this group will work with numerous stakeholders to identify barriers to private investment across the infrastructure sector.
  • Infrastructure Investment Summit. The event will be hosted by the U.S. Department of Treasury on September 9, 2014 and will target both public- and private-sector officials.

GO TO 2040 recognizes the lack of traditional funding for transportation investments and the potential role for innovative financing to help fill the gap for some projects.  The plan calls for the region to pursue appropriate PPPs, stressing that all PPP arrangements must be handled with a high degree of transparency and care to protect the public interest.  Additional federal resources and technical assistance should support this recommendation, not only in northeastern Illinois but across the nation, helping officials to identify appropriate projects and contractual terms for PPPs.