Infrastructure Problems and Solutions

Mar 17, 2008

On March 11th I had the privilege of testifying before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee regarding the condition of our nation’s infrastructure and proposals for needed improvements.  Below are some of the key points I was able to present.  The full testimony is available here.

There is abundant evidence that America’s infrastructure is not only showing its age, but also showing that it lacks capacity to handle the volume of people and goods moving today...As the recently-issued report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (NSTPRSC) says, “the time is now.” We cannot treat infrastructure like other problems or programs where you can wait until the very last minute and then write a big check.  Infrastructure projects require foresight and years of careful planning.
From interstate highways to the information superhighway...from airports to water ports to wastewater systems…from rail lines to transmission lines to power plants...our infrastructure is in a state of crisis.
If we fail to address these transportation infrastructure challenges, we will lose jobs and industries to other nations. Our global competitors are building and rebuilding while America is standing still. China, India, and the developing world are building at a staggering pace. China spends 9% of its GDP on infrastructure; India, 5% and rising...The United States has spent less than 2% on average as a percentage of GDP since 1980. We cannot expect to remain competitive with that level of investment.
This country has a transportation system that is overworked, under-funded, increasingly unsafe, and without a strategic vision...Without a vision, a compelling case cannot be made to the public for increased investment. Without a vision, the ill-defined programs will continue to be increasingly susceptible to earmarks that do not reflect actual priorities.
However, more than a vision, we need a national plan. We agree with Chairman Dodd that the federal government is not doing enough to address important national and regional transportation issues from a systemic perspective...This country’s current approach to delivering transportation infrastructure is not set up for today’s robust economy or the economy of the future. The next era in surface transportation requires a multi-modal and intermodal approach that supports competition in the global economy, an aim that emphasizes the need for the federal government to play an important role.
The Chamber will continue to encourage Congress to spend infrastructure dollars more wisely, invest in new technologies, ensure that states do not divert their transportation funding away from its intended use in the name of “flexibility,” increase public funding, encourage public-private partnerships at the state and local levels, and attract more private investment for projects.

Read the testimony for a full list of our supporting facts and recommendations.

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