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What's next for U.S. infrastructure policy? Key legislative developments to watch in 2021

The need for renewed, large-scale investment in America’s aging infrastructure is undisputed. However, in recent years, well thought-out reforms from both sides of the political aisle have too often fallen victim to legislative gridlock and a perceived lack of urgency. 

Yet in 2020, this settled landscape has been upended. Will the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic be the impetus that is needed to spur meaningful legislative action in support of large-scale infrastructure solutions, similar to what was seen in the Great Depression of the 1930s? If so, will those solutions make smart use of the abundant private capital that investors are eager to deploy in the sector? 

In this article, we examine a selection of the federal legislative proposals which are currently under discussion, with a focus on those which may present opportunities to deploy private capital in infrastructure (such as various aspects of the Democratic Party’s “Moving Forward Act” and proposed reforms to the TIFIA program). While it seems unlikely that we will see meaningful movement before November’s election, a look at both Presidential candidates’ platforms, as well as legislative proposals from both sides of the aisle, may give some indication of what to expect in 2021. 

Furthermore, we argue that reforms which “crowd in” private capital to bridge America’s USD2 trillion infrastructure gap are more economically and politically sustainable than the traditional forms of government support for infrastructure, and hence, are exactly what legislators should be focusing on in the current environment.