WASHINGTON, DC –At its January meeting, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) released a new report that provides an in-depth look at the infrastructure systems at the heart of the multi-state D.C. region—transportation, water, energy, public buildings, and public safety communications—and their funding needs.
The 2015 State of the Region: Infrastructure Report found that while the region has been making considerable investment in maintaining and expanding critical infrastructure, COG conservatively estimates a funding gap of at least $58 billion over the next 15 years between what local governments, utilities, and authorities have budgeted and what the future needs are. Of that number, transportation and water infrastructure account for the largest unfunded needs--$24 billion and $20 billion respectively.
“Infrastructure is usually under-appreciated until something goes wrong,” said District of Columbia Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who proposed COG’s focus on infrastructure while serving as Chairman of its Board of Directors in 2014. “Maintenance and replacement costs in critical sectors have been deferred as leaders have been faced with competing priorities, and the need for investing in new systems to support growth and maintaining a state of good repair totals in the billions.”
To address the region's infrastructure needs and ensure a high quality of life and strong commerce, the report makes several recommendations from creating a regional infrastructure partnership to public education and advocacy efforts. For example, it calls for the establishment of a regional infrastructure exchange that would prioritize infrastructure costs, funding needs, and periodically assess the state of the region’s infrastructure systems. The report also stresses the importance of sharing best practices and exploring new methods of infrastructure financing with regional and national experts.
“$58 billion over 15 years sounds dire but it’s do-able and vitally important,” said COG Executive Director Chuck Bean. “For context, our region will generate $7 trillion in Gross Regional Product in that same time frame meaning our infrastructure gap is less than one percent of what we will produce.”
In the transportation sector, the report estimates the region will need to spend, in addition to currently planned investments, more than $7.5 billion over the next 15 years on roadway resurfacing and rehabilitation. It notes $1 billion needed in the next decade to rehabilitate or reconstruct bridges reaching the end of their typical lifespan. The reports says Metro estimates its system will need more than $1 billion annually just to continue the current level of service. Additional improvements to increase capacity, such as eight-car long trains at rush hour and station improvements, will cost approximately $6 billion through 2025.
In the water sector, the report estimates $1 billion per year in investments to replace aging pipes, valves, and other infrastructure that gather and deliver drinking water and treat wastewater. It also highlights a need to invest at least $10 billion in stormwater management infrastructure to meet regulatory compliance requirements over the next 10 years.
According to the report, the most prominent challenge facing the energy sector in the region is financing planned system upgrades and expansion while maintaining low rates and high reliability. It notes that Pepco, Dominion, and other electric power companies are planning more than $4 billion in infrastructure investments between 2014 and 2018.
The report notes the region currently spends about $800 million a year on operating and maintaining locally-owned government buildings and will need $8.5 billion included in local capital investments plans over the next six years. The report also highlights the need to modernize the region’s public safety communications infrastructure. A study on regional NextGen 9-1-1 is in process and cost estimates will be available in late 2015.
Throughout 2014, the COG Board of Directors held discussions with experts from across the infrastructure provider spectrum. The discussions informed the final report, which supports other recent regional efforts to ensure the maintenance, repair, and strategic expansion of the region’s infrastructure, including the Regional Transportation Priorities Plan and COG’s Region Forward Vision.