Worley Blog


Posted on: August 28th, 2020 by Clifford F. Lynch


In November, we will either elect a new president or grant a reprieve to the current one. While the pandemic has come to influence almost everything in our lives and will no doubt play some part in the election, supply chain managers still will have a lingering concern about the country’s deteriorating infrastructure. For almost four years, we have waited for the infrastructure improvements that were promised by the current administration. For a number of reasons – some practical, but mostly political, few if any of the promised improvements have been made. It comes as no surprise then, that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has developed a plan that will attack not only the infrastructure problem, but climate change and jobs creation, as well.

In November, 2019, Mr. Biden announced a $1.3 Trillion, 10-year spend that would secure the country’s infrastructure, move the U.S. to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and create millions of skilled trade, engineering, and construction jobs. The overall plan is not too unlike the Obama proposals; and as might be expected, calls for the creation of solid middle-class jobs whose holders “must have the option to join a union and collectively bargain.” Domestic production will be encouraged, and any federally funded projects would have to source materials from U. S. manufacturers and suppliers. As with the Obama proposals, it is difficult to tell whether the primary goal is to improve infrastructure or create jobs, although either one would be a worthwhile objective.

Reduction in greenhouse gases will be emphasized and every infrastructure dollar spent will consider the impact of the “climate crisis”. There will be incentives for the purchase of electric automobiles, and a national charging network will be built to power them.

Federal investment in small, rural, or low-income communities will ensure that every American has access to clean water, broadband, well-paved roads, safe schools, and affordable housing.

During the first year of the administration, $50 Billion will be spent on repairing existing roads and bridges, and project permitting will be expedited. Emphasis will be placed on what Biden calls “complete streets”, or those that are designed for sharing by automobiles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Funding for appropriate safety initiatives will be included. To help build the workforce for their construction, new job training programs will be developed.

Municipalities of more than 100,000 people will have quality public transportation by 2030.

Biden promises to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund. We have heard similar commitments for years with no meaningful results. This will require an increase in the federal gas tax which has not changed since 1993. No Congress in recent memory has been willing to touch it, since voting for such an increase would be a sure ticket back home.

The plan calls for development of more high-speed rail. The U.S. continues to lag behind other countries in safe, fast rail systems, and their development would decrease greenhouse gases and provide Americans an attractive travel option; where practical, current and new rail systems would be powered by electricity.

Residential water infrastructure will be improved with new investments in technology, as well as improved methods for monitoring lead and other contaminants.

Mr. Biden plans to double the funding for airport improvements and commits to implementing the long overdue NextGen air control system.

Broadband technology will be available to every household, and the new administration will close what Biden calls the “digital divide”. This will be accomplished through increased funding for rural and undeserved areas. The government will ensure that “the work of installing broadband provides high-paying jobs with benefits.”

An interesting inclusion is $100 Billion to modernize U.S. schools. This would be a welcome shot in the arm for those being educated in outdated and unsafe school facilities.

Finally, everything will be tied to an underlying goal of a “100% clean energy economy”.

Last month, he doubled down on his plan, promising to spend $2 Trillion over four years to escalate the promised improvements emphasizing infrastructure, climate change, and economic opportunities.

As is often the case, funding for all of this is somewhat vague, but part of the funds would be generated by an increase in the corporate tax rate (21% to 28%)

Setting politics aside, I believe at this point, most of us would be satisfied with either the stagnant Trump plan or the Biden proposals, if there was any guaranteed, they would be implemented. In November, we will at least know what to hope for; but the road ahead will still be long and hard, regardless of who wins.