The Obama administration on Friday announced new steps federal agencies are taking to attract private money for projects upgrading roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
A new Water Finance Center at the Environmental Protection Agency will work with state and local governments, utilities and the private sector to use federal grants to leverage private capital to address more than $600 billion in needs for drinking water and wastewater management over the next 20 years.
A separate Agriculture Department program, the Rural Opportunity Investment Initiative, will be aimed at attracting private funding for rural projects and improving access to USDA credit programs.
The administration is proposing to create a new municipal bond for public-private partnerships.
Vice President Joe Biden discussed the importance of modern infrastructure Friday after touring a water project in the District of Columbia. The project is designed to reduce the flow of billions of gallons of contaminated sewer water into the Anacostia River.
"If we're going to lead the world in the 21st century, and we are leading the world in the 21st century, we have to have the most modern infrastructure in the world," Biden said, adding that businesses don't want to locate in places where water is dirty, bridges aren't up to date or there are no connections to railways.
It has been several years since Congress has passed a long-term measure to pay for spending on highways and other projects. Last year, President Barack Obama put forward a $302 billion, four-year proposal partly paid for by overhauling the corporate tax system, but the proposal stalled on Capitol Hill.
Obama, Biden and other officials argue that U.S. competitiveness is being hindered by aging infrastructure. They say projects to replace or upgrade infrastructure will help the economy and create jobs.