Adopt a “fix-it-first” policy

Action

A fix-it-first strategy can serve as an integral part of a state’s comprehensive approach to growth. A fix-it-first strategy prioritizes infrastructure spending to support the maintenance and upgrading of existing structures and facilities, instead of incurring the cost of constructing or installing new infrastructure. Fix-it-first approaches generally are used in funding transportation infrastructure (e.g., roads, bridges, rail systems) (see Policy #2, Adopt a “fix-it-first” approach, in the Transportation section) and water infrastructure (e.g., sewers and drinking water treatment/distribution systems), but may also apply to schools, public or civic buildings and housing.

A fix-it-first strategy maximizes the value of past investments, minimizes the use of state funds on new projects, stretches limited resources and reinvests in and revitalizes existing communities. These qualities make the fix-it-first strategy appealing to both government officials and the public.

Process

A fix-it-first approach can apply to all infrastructure spending decisions and could be implemented in a number of ways. The Governor could direct his or her cabinet, growth sub-cabinet, Office of Smart Growth or other applicable state agencies to integrate a fix-it-first approach into their review and approval of state capital investments. Fix-it-first should also be an explicit criterion used in the review of discretionary grant programs. A fix-it-first criterion could be included in any growth management scorecard that a state might use in assessing the impact of spending decisions (see Policy #8, Integrate the state’s growth criteria into discretionary funding decisions, in this section). To be consistent with a fix-it-first strategy, state policies regarding the rehabilitation of existing schools as well as the state’s rehabilitation building code should be revised to ensure they support reuse and redevelopment.

The administration’s communications strategy should emphasize the importance of applying a fix-it-first approach to state investments. A sense of urgency can be created by issuing a report on the “state of the state’s infrastructure” that could compare the costs of fix-it-first strategies against the costs of building new infrastructure.

Example

Michigan’s Preserve First Program
In her first campaign for governor, Governor Jennifer Granholm promised to fix Michigan’s roads. Within months of taking office, she freed up approximately $400 million for repairs by delaying nearly 40 expansion projects. When the state legislature attempted to restore the projects though the budget process, she used a line-item veto to preserve her fix-it-first priorities (July 8, 2003 news release, Michigan Office of the Governor). In April 2003, the Michigan DOT established the Preserve First program. This program set goals of having 95 percent of freeways and 85 percent of non-freeways in “good” condition by 2007 and to increase the life of roads to 50 years.