A few weeks ago, US President Barack Obama, while announcing his latest plans for jump-starting the US economy, mentioned the possible creation of a National Infrastructure Bank. There were few details, but he proposed initial funding of $50 billion with legislation that would make such an institution permanent. This plan would provide the means to manage and maintain the nation's transportation infrastructure from one election cycle to another. The mission of the new National Infrastructure Bank would be to loan funds and to incorporate matching state funds for maintaining and improving the nation's railroads, highways, airports and other types of infrastructure.
I applaud the Obama proposal, but I think it should go several steps further. I would like to see such a National Infrastructure Bank incorporated into a much larger organization, one with a broader and a more far-reaching vision and authority. Maybe call it the National Planning Authority.
Top officials of a National Planning Authority should be appointed for long terms, similar to the Supreme Court or members of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. Their long-term planning decisions should carry significant authority to ensure projects of national interest are started and completed in a timely fashion. These decisions should not be subject to the whims of current elections and partisan politics.
In addition to prioritizing and managing the maintenance of existing national transportation infrastructure, the National Planning Authority should also oversee the planning associated with the maintenance and improvement of the US electrical generation and transmission infrastructure. Such an authority should also be responsible for the planning and execution of new infrastructure projects that are essential and vital for US economic development and security.