Build Modern, Resilient Infrastructure to Address Climate Change, Promote Environmental Justice, and Enhance Opportunity and Productivity:
Transportation, Water, Green Energy, and Technology Systems
Investing in the Nation’s infrastructure can play a critical role in our Nation’s economic recovery and putting people back to work. While investment is needed to maintain, replace, and expand the Nation’s infrastructure, mayors also see the need to “green” our infrastructure with an eye towards building more resilient and lower-carbon infrastructure options. The need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a world-wide imperative not only to maintain our ecosystems but to also protect our most vulnerable citizens who will be the most severely impacted by a changing climate. Science tells us that we are at the tipping point and action is needed to combat permanent changes to our climate.
Mayors believe that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced while also growing the economy and creating new, well-paying jobs. Mayors have taken a national and global leadership role in climate protection by investing in carbon-reducing and resilient infrastructure including lower-carbon transportation options and smart water systems, expanded the use of renewable and alternative energy sources, investing in energy conservation programs, and designing more resilient communities. Cities have begun many of these measures, but national action is needed.
Cities are the best sources for innovation, with so many mayors successfully pioneering and demonstrating cost-effective clean energy and efficiency solutions. Often, in cities, this means increasing the energy performance of public and private buildings, promoting greater energy independence through the use of alternative low and zero-carbon energy sources, transitioning government and private vehicles to alternative fuels as well as better fuel economy standards, and building new infrastructure to support citizens and business in switching to greener energy and transportation options.
Our cities are ground zero as the Nation struggles to adjust to the transportation impacts of COVID-19, inflicting consequential and what are likely to be enduring impacts on the transportation sector. This fallout can be measured by record revenue losses and steep declines in use and ridership across all modes, most notably for public transit, intercity passenger rail and air travel. First priority must be given to providing additional federal support to sustain these vital systems and services – especially public transit, airports and air travel, and intercity passenger rail – as local and state governments struggle to maintain and adjust existing capital investment plans to advance needed improvements and planned expansions.
Going forward, a post-COVID world means congestion, traffic safety, economic mobility, and transportation sustainability challenges, among other issues, will again challenge mayors and other local leaders to find solutions. Such efforts will rely on investments and actions that bring together all available tools – technology, infrastructure, operations, regulations, funding, financing, and energy – to help deliver a seamless mobility experience, today and long into the future.
Raising sufficient resources for public investment in our Nation’s transportation infrastructure is foundational to our shared agenda to make the lives of all Americans better – not just those living in cities, but those who work in them and the communities that surround them as well. This public investment in our transportation infrastructure connects people to jobs and homes, makes communities safer and more accessible, and helps businesses prosper – leading to growth in local, regional, and national economies. It must also connect today’s economic opportunities with tomorrow’s population realities. Mayors recognize and embrace the bipartisan nature of funding for transportation specifically and infrastructure broadly, including efforts to stabilize and grow funding and streamline project delivery.
For too many years, federal underinvestment in our airports, bridges, roads, ports, transit systems, and other facilities has resulted in additional deterioration or delayed maintenance that has cost local taxpayers money, hurt our economic growth, and made some of our infrastructure unsafe. Although many cities have taken bold steps to increase local and regional commitments to transportation, Washington now needs to step up and do more to invest in these networks and partner with, incentivize, and reward cities for taking action.
In addition to stabilizing the many vital transportation systems and services during this COVID-19 pandemic, additional steps must be taken to reverse the decline in transportation infrastructure investment and meet our new challenges and emerging opportunities. As such, mayors call on the President and Congress to:
Bridges, Roads, and Transit
- Secure the highway trust fund, first established in the 1950s, so that the federal government can continue to partner with city, county, and state leaders as they work to repair, maintain, and expand the Nation’s vital transportation networks.
- Direct more highway dollars – through the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program and other programs – to support mayors and other officials in their regions who show how locally-initiated transportation solutions grow the economy faster and deliver more travel options to more people, among other benefits.
- Make public transit investment a higher priority to support local and regional efforts to increase connectivity, access, and frequency of services to better serve all residents, especially those who are transit-dependent.
- Reward cities that embrace new initiatives and innovations that help local areas continue to grow and prosper, including local hiring and similar initiative to spur local economic development and growth, and support local efforts to complete streets and advance safety first outcomes, improve transit access and services, promote transit adjacent housing, reduce air pollutants that threaten public health, curb transportation emissions that fuel climate change, and harden existing transportation facilities and networks to make them more resilient to climatic events.
- Support continuing local efforts to address future transportation needs of cities and their surrounding communities; incentivize the local deployment of new transportation technologies and update local regulatory regimes to address autonomous vehicles, unmanned air taxis, and Hyperloop pilots, among other technologies; and embrace shared mobility services and resources that expand travel options in cities and their regions and increase the throughput of urban networks serving people and vehicles.
- Expand capital investments to modernize the Nation’s airports – cognizant of pre-pandemic record-setting air travel and inadequate airport capacity to meet rising demand – by directing more FAA program dollars to local airport capital projects and by empowering individual airport operators to raise more capital funds from passengers using their airports (i.e., raising the cap on Passenger Facility Charges).
- Spend down the funds now being collected by users of our port facilities and stop diverting these funds to other governmental purposes, which is especially important now with our harbors and other ports facing so many unmet infrastructure needs.
Water and Wastewater Systems
Local governments have long been significant environmental and public health stewards by providing clean, safe, healthy drinking water and wastewater. To most Americans, this is a fundamental responsibility of government. In fact, American cities provide some of the safest and healthiest public drinking water in the world. To achieve this, local governments today currently spend $125 billion annually, which is raised through constituent user fees and taxes. In comparison, the federal government contributes less than $2 billion annually, largely in the form of loans, which must be paid back.
Unfortunately, due to numerous unfunded rules and regulations, this money is often diverted to fund other priorities separate from local government’s core purpose of protecting the public health of its citizens by keeping waterways drinkable, swimmable, fishable, and livable for aquatic life per the Clean Water Act. As one example of mounting water infrastructure needs, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan called attention to the real threat of lead contamination in some
of our aging drinking water systems. It is currently estimated that replacing existing lead service lines will cost between $27 billion and $48 billion nationally – and the health and safety of our population depend on it.
To mitigate this, mayors call on the President and Congress to:
- Raise existing federal funding commitments substantially, particularly in the form of grant funding, to support the modernization and expansion of our Nation’s drinking water, wastewater treatment, stormwater, and flood protection systems. This includes addressing public health threats from lead contamination in older, legacy water systems as well as helping mitigate the impact of unfunded federal mandates on communities where user fee increases to comply with these mandates are making water rates unaffordable for more and more local residents. The federal government should assist localities in meeting Clean Water Act obligation including (but not limited to) TMDLs for stormwater as it did in the past by funding upgrades of treatment plants to secondary treatment.
- Implement the Integrated Planning Permit law to ensure cities and their customers are not overly financially burdened and to allow cities maximum flexibility to address specific challenges in a smart, prioritized manner.
- Change the current clean water act law to allow cities to have 10-year, rather than five-year, treatment works permit terms. We need a more long-term approach.
- Continue to advocate for better “Affordability” assessments involving compliance with unfunded federal mandates, including the elimination of costly penalties.
- Direct new resources funding to support local government efforts to study, evaluate, and undertake capital investments to combat cybersecurity threats and improve water system resiliency from natural disasters.
- Assist in providing funding or federal credits for premise plumbing upgrades on private property to prevent and reduce contamination from pipes.
- Fund the Corps of Engineers’ authority to allow for water and wastewater infrastructure investment which would allow for additional grant funding for the Nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure.
- Increase funding for newly established programs including the water workforce development grant, CSO and stormwater infrastructure needs, increasing system resiliency, and accelerating innovative technologies in the water sector.
Address Climate Change by Accelerating Clean Energy Use
Climate change poses a major threat to our ecosystem and our most vulnerable citizens. However, it also poses a path to economic recovery and job creation. Mayors have focused their greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies on major sources of emissions including electric utilities, buildings, transportation, and municipal solid waste management. Despite these local efforts, national leadership and resources are needed to amplify these efforts.
Cities are at the forefront of improving the energy performance of the Nation’s buildings, with actions that include stronger building codes, innovative building practices, efficient construction materials, and increased use of renewable energy. Not only will these actions rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, but they will put Americans to work in our communities.
Cutting energy use in the transportation sector, the second-largest emitter of carbon, can be accomplished by providing more and smarter transportation options. Beyond federal fuel economy standards, much of the work to reengineer existing transportation networks, services, and practices have been shouldered by local leaders.
Municipal solid waste, if not properly reduced, reused, recycled, or turned into energy, ends up in a landfill, where it converts into methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-one times more powerful than carbon dioxide emissions.
Therefore, mayors call on the President and Congress to:
- Recommit to providing federal resources directly to cities, counties, states, and tribal governments through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program to rapidly accelerate efforts to promote the use of renewable energy, implement energy conservation efforts, invest in cleaner alternative fuel options, installing Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations, and begin designing more resilient communities. These programs should ensure an emphasis on communities and residents in greatest need of support, such as low-income, multifamily, and small business-focused programs.
- Authorize the use of these grants for energy assurance strategies designed to limit or mitigate interruption of vital energy networks and services due to natural disasters and to protect microgrids, distributed energy systems, and local energy networks from cybersecurity threats.
- Establish policies, incentives, and standards for new and existing buildings to be carbon neutral.
- Congress should establish a comprehensive national program and a timeframe to decarbonize the electric utility industry in time to keep the global rise in temperatures to the 1.5-degree Celsius level.
- Congress should establish a worker re-training and benefits program for those workers dislocated from the transition away from the fossil fuel industry and provide adequate funding for job skill training in the renewable energy and green building field.
- Start now to establish and implement a national Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction strategy to cut nationwide emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
- Adopt a national renewable portfolio standard and provide incentives for clean and renewable energy.
- Recommit to research at the Department of Energy to improve and promote hydropower as renewable energy, promoting energy security via energy diversity.
- Expand tax credits to purchase electric vehicles (EV) so that a major source of carbon emissions is reduced quickly and significantly.
- Create investment/grant opportunities for net-zero energy/zero energy demonstration projects and fleets at ports and airports that will promote efficient, effective innovation on a large scale.
- Support policies that allow for the responsible development of the Nation’s offshore wind energy industry, including the extension of federal tax incentives and predictable, inclusive policy approaches to ocean planning, leasing, and permitting.
- Provide an Energy Decoupling Incentive program that requires states to adopt decoupling into their rate-making regulatory regime, so that utilities are incentivized to implement energy conservation programs.
- Provide incentives to the energy sector to ramp up research and investments in renewable energy to expand electric generation, and research to capture and reduce carbon emissions from clean energy.
- Develop a comprehensive solid waste strategy to reduce the amount of solid waste sent to landfills that includes: 1) an extended producer responsibility program at the national level, with incentives to encourage shared responsibility; 2) policies to shift away from single-use materials; 3) development of post-consumer content markets, and the infrastructure needed to process recyclables within the U.S.; and 4) increased efforts to more effectively reduce, reuse, recycle, and generate energy from waste.
- Provide additional resources to redevelop the estimated 400,000 to 600,000 brownfield sites which are oftentimes located in areas that are most impacted by poverty and environmental injustice. These resources will help recycle property where infrastructure already exists while revitalizing and creating jobs in disenfranchised neighborhoods and providing affordable and energy-efficient housing. Brownfields can also be used to install microgrids and renewable energy sites.
Embrace Efficient, Effective, Modern Technology While Protecting Consumers and Cities
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 72 percent of U.S. adults say they have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust in their local government, higher than any other level. The public’s confidence in the actions of their local leaders is an important asset as many new technologies, increasingly disruptive ones, are being deployed throughout the U.S.
Among the examples of this leadership, cities have been pioneers in digital government and have embraced accountability, transparency and collaboration with open data. Cities are leading the public debate about the need to secure governmental systems from threats domestic and international. In the transportation and communications sectors, cities have been leading in the piloting and testing of autonomous vehicles and drones, and in building new partnerships with telecommunications companies to expand access to broadband and wireless services.
To support this local leadership, mayors call on the President and Congress to:
- Work with all levels of government in developing data standards to improve accountability, access, interoperability, transparency, and security, and provide resources to cities to respond to intentional and deliberate cyber crimes.
- Protect election systems and other vital technology assets in local government with financial and technical support.
- Support local efforts to provide for greater digital equality and literacy, including senior citizens, so that every citizen can enjoy the benefits of a digital world.
- Support local efforts to pilot and test new technologies, especially in the transportation sector, giving communities the opportunity to evaluate and deploy these systems free from unnecessary federal preemption and/or “one-size-fits-all” federal regulatory regimes.
- Reverse actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that subordinate local property rights and zoning powers to the agency’s efforts to subsidize the Nation’s communications companies with local government property, actions which exceed authorities granted by Congress in previous statute.
Technology and Innovation
Technology fosters innovation, creates jobs, and boosts long-term economic prosperity. To spur recovery, the American economy will need a productivity boost from innovation and new frontier technologies. Science-based technologies will be at the very core of our economic growth.
Close Gaps in Communications Infrastructure
The pandemic has shown that there are significant gaps in the availability and affordability of wireline and wireless broadband services to all city residents
Mayors urge increased federal funding to build-out higher-speed broadband infrastructure serving urban and rural areas, and to reduce the cost of broadband services for low-income individuals and families. In this Congress, there are several pending bills that: would protect or restore local governments’ traditional authority and property rights; empower localities to pursue municipal broadband networks; and increase federal funding commitments, each of which would make broadband service more affordable and more available to all residents.
Research and Development
To stimulate innovation, the Nation’s mayors recommend increased investments in national research and development and in intangibles like software, data science, intellectual property, and training, which represent major elements of innovation capacity. The research and development tax credit must be extended on a predictable schedule so that U.S. companies can plan investments and pursue consistent long-term strategies.