Presidential candidates’ debate over future of nation’s aging infrastructure

Posted by Evan Halperin on October 10, 2016

Road Infrastructure

As we move closer to Election Day, questions continue to mount about what each candidate’s policy proposals will mean for the nation’s economy. One area that has received very little media attention is Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s plans for America’s ailing infrastructure. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S.’s infrastructure a D+ overall, with many areas, such as levees and roads, receiving even worse grades.

Both presidential candidates have made statements about how the U.S.’s infrastructure is in dire need of repair, including during the first presidential debate. Hillary Clinton released a plan detailing her five-year, $275 billion plan in August, which includes the creation of a “federal infrastructure bank to provide start-up financing, loan guarantees and long-term loans for large-scale public projects.” Donald Trump has said that double the funding is necessary, stating that $500 billion is a start. While specifics of his plan have not been announced, funding will be made available through borrowing.

Without delving into the merits of each candidate’s plans for paying for their respective program, one thing is clear, both Clinton and Trump view our nation’s infrastructure as being essential and tied to economic growth. One major question remains for the architecture, engineering and construction firms (AEC) across the country: will either plan succeed, and how can they win more business?

Throughout the course of 2016, there have been some ups and downs in terms of AEC project activity throughout the country. During the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter, the number of projects being solicited were down up to 18 percent, but saw an uptick in August 2016. Should either infrastructure plan make it through Congress, there will be more projects available to bid that may have been previously stalled due to funding limitations.

One key component of the two plans that may be of great benefit to small to medium-sized AEC firms is Clinton’s start-up financing plans. These would make investments in large-scale projects. While small firms may not be equipped to handle large projects, sub-contract work will likely be available. Additionally, when large connecting highways and other infrastructure is improved, small businesses may be able to benefit from the now-reduced congestion or other issues that may have impeded their ability to go after other projects.

Overall, the benefits to AEC firms large and small could be valuable from a new business standpoint. While the $275 or $500 billion plans fall short of what the ASCE suggests is needed, any major funding plans that can start the process of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure should be welcomes by both the firms building and the citizens using those roads. 

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