Mike Bloomberg’s ‘community-driven’ infra plan is light on funding details

The US presidential candidate unveiled a ‘community-driven’ plan that would encourage local governments to fix existing infrastructure and invest in major, long-term projects.

Mike Bloomberg, a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination in this year’s US presidential election, on Wednesday unveiled an infrastructure plan that would involve spending $850 billion of federal funds to fix crumbling roads and bridges.

The proposal by the former New York City mayor combines upgrading existing infrastructure, including a $1 billion annual ‘pothole’ repair fund, with developing transformative large-scale projects such as high-speed rail. Bloomberg’s plan would funnel the spending to local government leaders who “best understand their infrastructure needs,” according to a statement from his campaign.

Bloomberg’s plan will require states to distribute 100 percent of the federal infrastructure funding intended for cities directly to the municipalities themselves. It would also create a national budget designed to finance “major, long-term infrastructure projects,” according to the statement. “Mike’s policy will be the most community-driven infrastructure plan to get people and goods moving faster,” the statement said.

Highlights from the candidate’s plan include repairing 240,000 miles of roads and 16,000 bridges; building rail links at 10 of the US’s busiest airports; completing one high-speed rail project by 2025; expanding broadband access to 10 million more Americans; and ensuring clean water in the 100 most vulnerable communities by 2025.

Bloomberg is also calling for $30 billion in additional federal funding for the Surface Transportation Block Grant programme and tripling the annual federal investment in public transport.

In total, Bloomberg said his plan would invest more than $1 trillion in the country’s infrastructure. He has not yet detailed how such an infrastructure overhaul would be paid for. However, a campaign spokesman said this would come with the release of Bloomberg’s tax proposal in the coming months.

When asked about the private sector’s role in the proposed infrastructure programme, the spokesperson told Infrastructure Investor that Bloomberg “recognises PPPs are an important tool that can be leveraged in the right circumstances”.

The infrastructure plan follows the release of Bloomberg’s clean transportation plan last week, which calls for cutting carbon pollution “economy-wide” by 50 percent by 2030. In addition to promoting electric vehicle use, Bloomberg again called for investment in high-speed rail as a solution to decarbonise the US transport system.

The proposal was released ahead of a speech Bloomberg was due to deliver on Wednesday at the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington DC.