Leaders in Washington, in both the executive and legislative branches, cite infrastructure as a top priority for the new Congress. All agree that the case for serious investment has been made. But while federal policymakers prepare to debate how they might provide more funding for new or improved infrastructure, state and local governments are beginning to tackle the long-neglected issue of deferred maintenance with money, muscle and spreadsheets.
This is an important development after decades of postponing scheduled upkeep and routine repairs on roads, schools, bridges and water lines as pleas for additional funding to maintain these critical workhorse assets were drowned out by the allure of new shiny-pony assets. More and more, public finance officials are taking stock of their existing assets, their condition and the costs to address the consequences of deferred maintenance. These efforts mark a profound change in focus.