Midterm mayhem

The changes in the make-up of Congress following the midterm elections have left infrastructure as one of the few areas where both houses might find some common ground

Much anticipation ensued in the days preceding the US midterm elections on November 6, but in the end the outcome was sufficiently vague enough that both parties could claim success.

The Democrats won a majority in the US House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, but a predicted ‘blue wave’ never really materialized and the Republicans were able to strengthen their grip on the Senate.

While the results threaten legislative deadlock as the US political environment becomes increasingly divided, there’s one issue which despite winning bipartisan support has not seen widespread policy action per expectations: infrastructure.

Even President Donald Trump believes that the two parties have a lot in common when it comes to infrastructure policy, but this hasn’t seen the much-needed push.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat tipped to be the next House speaker, said during a victory speech: "We will deliver a transformational investment in America’s infrastructure to create more good paying jobs.

"Rebuilding our roads, bridges, schools, water systems, broadband networks and housing and beyond."

A lot is pending for the sector such as: an increase in federal funding for infrastructure; an extension of PABs and TIFIA funding to sectors beyond transportation; and a greater push towards actual procurement of more water and wastewater projects.

Last week saw the introduction of a new bill in the Senate to allow airport projects to be eligible to participate in the TIFIA financing program. It will be interesting to see how fast it passes both House and Senate to head to the president’s desk for signature into law – and could provide something of a test case for the two bodies to work together on the nation’s infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Trump’s much touted $1trn infrastructure package has not materialized in Congress, and the Federal Transit Administration has been withholding capital grants from public transit projects already well underway around the country.

Revenues via gas taxes have been drying up, since that tax hasn’t been raised for a quarter of a century – since 1993. As a result, states and cities have been stepping up to pay for more themselves.

So, the hope would be to see much more bipartisan support in the House and Senate to push for policy action to address the issues above, as well as patch the infrastructure investment gap and invest in new build. Infrastructure will almost certainly be the test for the country to discover whether American politics have become too divisive even for notionally bipartisan issues to fall victim to political fighting.