August 11, 2011 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Building America’s Future (BAF) unveiled their own study on transportation infrastructure titled, Falling Apart and Falling Behind, which highlights how crumbling transportation system makes the nation less competitive. Falling Apart and Falling Behind findings fit with the results of ASCE’s recent Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure.

The report has four sections, the introduction which present the current status of our nation’s deficient transportation and the second of which identities why the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to 15th in the World Economic Forum’s infrastructure ranking.  BAF’s study believes this is due to a lack of a coherent vision for nation infrastructure as well as, dwindling funding. The third part of the study shows our economic competitors are putting money into their transportation systems, while we are lagging behind. The U.S. spends roughly 1.7% of its GDP on transportation infrastructure while China spends 9% and Canada spends 4%. Other countries are making necessary investments in infrastructure to improve their economies as we hide from our growing infrastructure deficit. The fourth section makes these recommendations for how to deal with our transportation deficit:

1. Develop a national infrastructure strategy for the next decade that makes choices based on economics, not politics.

2. Re‐orient Washington’s priorities:

  • Pass a six‐year transportation bill.
  • Target federal dollars toward economically strategic freight gateways and corridors.
  • Re‐focus highway investment on projects of national economic significance.
  • Invest more in mass transit.
  • Implement the Next Generation aviation system.
  • Improve facilities at economically strategic airports.
  • Invest now in true high‐speed rail in economically strategic corridors.

3. Be both innovative and realistic about how to pay.

  • Establish a National Infrastructure Bank.
  • Develop other ways to pay for road maintenance, including: congestion pricing, tolling, carbon auctions, fees based on miles traveled, Build America Bonds, or reserves built into capital budgets.
  • Enhance or make permanent some of the innovative financing and funding mechanisms that have recently been put into place including: Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).

4. Promote accountability and innovation.

  • Develop “best practices” for public‐private partnerships.
  • Increase accountability in the federal funding and project delivery process.
  • Audit the U.S. Department of Transportation.
  • Encourage and reward local innovation.
  • Remove obstacles to state and local innovation.

These recommendations correspond to the 5 Key Solutions for Infrastructure set out in the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure :

  • Increase Federal Leadership;
  • Promote Sustainability and Resilience;
  • Develop National, State, and Regional Infrastructure Plans;
  • Address Life Cycle Costs and Ongoing Maintenance; and
  • Increase Investment from All Stakeholders.

These solutions have become the cornerstone of ASCE’s efforts to improve the nation’s infrastructure.  The Key Solutions offered by ASCE are ambitious and will not be achieved overnight, but Americans are capable of real and positive change. ASCE urges all those who want to continue our tradition of a strong and prosperous nation to begin by maintaining and improving the infrastructure that makes us great. 

Reports like BAF’s Falling Apart and Falling Behind and ASCE’s Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure, show us that while we, as a nation, have been able to carry on relatively well in the world economy, despite our slowly deteriorating infrastructure, we cannot sustain that place in the global economy without improvements to our infrastructure. Without investment we will see more congested highways, more broken bridges and more countries’ economies sprint ahead of ours. Growing infrastructure deficiencies will hurt American families and business in both the long and short term. We need a cohesive, national vision for transportation infrastructure which will be based on the needs of the people and businesses using it, promote sustainability, and improve our economy and quality of life.

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5 Responses

  1. Didn’t we just pass a new transportation spending bill not so long ago? After that bridge collapsed? I wonder what ever happened to that money. Seems like the politicians keep touting all of these new projects that are supposed to create jobs, like fixing our infrastructure, and then once the voters forget about it they pillage the money for their own pet projects.

  2. The U.S. is definitely falling behind, especially compared to China and Asia in general. We should push to improve our mass transit systems, which now are far inferior to mass transit in other countries.

  3. Roger M. Larson says:

    Highway safety is a critical issue that is largely ignored in addressing the need for improving condition of the driving surface of the nation’s highways. Emphasis on pavement preservation during rehabilitation and maintenance activities (keeping good roads good) has been proven to extremely cost effective asset management approach as well as extremely effective (if attention is paid to systematically improving friction and macrotexture) approach to reduce the unacceptable annual number of fatalities, serious injuries, and total crashes.

    The 2010 Highway Safety Manual addresses low cost proven safety countermeasures but ignores the dramatic impact that improving the pavement surface condition can have on reducing annual fatalities, serious injuries, and total crashes. Engineering safer roads needs to be given a higher priority and addressed in asset management, pavement management, pavement preservation, and pavement maintenance activities. Improved engineering guidance needs to be developed to show what works and what doesn’t. Very promising research is now being conducted under transportation pooled funds study TPF-5(099), Low Cost Safety Improvements looking at the impact of pavement type safety performance. Continued annual reductions in fatalities and serious injuries will save motorists billions of dollars annual. FHWA’s technical advisory on Pavement Friction Management and the 2008 AASHTO Guide for Pavement Friction are significant first steps at addressing this critical underemphasized issue.

  4. Parfait says:

    We know the federal government needs to be proactive in a pragmatic infrastructure maintenance policy. We know needed investment is needed to upgrade our bridges, retrofit our buildings, repave our highways, and rehabilitate our railways. We know for decades long that policy (with disregard towards maintenance and renovation), industry (with construction delivery procurement strategies that bifurcate the lifecyle), and public agencies (with inadequate infrastructure management) have been the underlying reasons of our crumbling infrastructure system.

    But do we know that local citizens, the essential stakeholders being everyday users and taxpaying owners, have been unengaged and uninformed in the management of their local facilities? The powerful monitoring/maintenance tool of user input has not been taken advantage of. Yes, we can call/email our public works for potholes, sewer leaks; our utilities for bent electric poles and poor water pressure; our states DOTs for faulty bridges, rough highways; our airports for poor runways. But do we really or wait until an emergency develops at costly repairs? Ask around, or better, ask yourself if you do.

    This lack of stewardship is another reason added to the above reasons that we don’t pressure our policymakers or public managers to deliver and maintain sound systems. And this is why I developed a one-stop database-driven website,, that encompasses all public infrastructure facilities from airports to water pipes, including roads, highways, and transit. Now, local residents can input their issues and ideas in a user-friendly, simple interface. In addition, they can see their entries along with many others local and nationwide (all 50 states including DC and Puerto Rico) through output tables to start an evidence-driven conversation. As the site gains traction, public managers and policymakers can see the real-time issues in their local jurisdictions and contract out shovel-ready projects to finally tackle our aging infrastructure system.