Cape Cod is about to get another lesson in the high cost of doing nothing. There is building chatter in DC about a major infrastructure bill gaining traction in Congress. Should the stars align and federal funding becomes available for all forms of infrastructure investment in water, wastewater and transportation, the region’s relative inaction on the development of engineering and design for needed wastewater management infrastructure will again leave the Cape on the outside peering in.
Why will the Cape miss the bus? The answer is simple and predictable because it has happened before, most recently with the American Recovery and Restoration Act passed in response to the 2007 recession. The federal government sees investment in infrastructure as a way to both modernize the nations’ infrastructure and to prime the economic pump. As a result, the criteria for allocating funds favors projects that are designed and ready to go to construction. And that’s the rub. The Cape didn’t benefit much from ARRA funds because not many projects were ready to go. Now, more than a decade later, not that much has changed.
While a handful of towns have advanced their infrastructure plans, many have not and will miss this opportunity for significant federal financial assistance that would save their residents meaningful money. The irony is that the local forces that have frustrated town efforts to implement wastewater management because “its too expensive” will be responsible for their towns missing the opportunity to lower costs to residents by not having plans that will meet federal funding assistance standards.
While it may be too late to fully take advantage of this next round of federal funding, it is not too early to begin preparations for the round of funding inevitably due to follow. At some point the Cape will wise up and take advantage of opportunities to clean up the environment and reduce the cost to local taxpayers. Until we do, critical federal resources will continue to go elsewhere.