Falling Apart & Falling Behind

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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 https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/ :

  • 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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