Investing in America’s Infrastructure: County Funding for Capital Facilities
Across America, county governments are critical players in building, maintaining and funding the infrastructure facilities used by residents every day. We own over 38 percent of America’s bridges and build and maintain 46 percent of America’s public roads.1 Annually, counties invest more than $122 billion in building infrastructure and maintaining and operating public works.2
Infrastructure must be maintained and expanded over time to fit the growing needs of the country. As the population grows and economic opportunities increase, so does the reliance on the infrastructure that supports this growth. For example, roads and bridges are needed to transport freight across the country to populations that have grown into previously undeveloped areas. Increased traffic can cause significant deterioration of county-owned roads. Facilities, such as hospitals, fire stations and schools, are also needed in these areas in response to the growth. However, new facilities require large financial investments. Counties are doing their part to respond to the demands caused by growth, including supporting 78 percent of all public transportation systems, as well as constructing water and sewer systems, and other public facilities.
For counties, maintaining and building reliable infrastructure necessitates dedicated funding. However, funding from counties for projects can be challenging due to stagnant revenue pools and ever-growing state and federal mandates on services. States also limit the amount of debt counties may take on, either with or without voter approval. At the same time, construction costs continue to rise.3 Therefore, continuing the federal-state-local partnership is essential for counties to support America’s infrastructure.
This report examines alternative funding solutions and strategies that counties have implemented for infrastructure projects. The analysis examines the challenges counties face in changing demographics, relationships with state and federal governments and funding these projects. Best practices from Dallas County (Texas), San Juan County (N.M.) and Montgomery County (Md.), provide a series of takeaways for all counties regarding infrastructure funding.