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A bipartisan coalition advocates a long-term infrastructure plan that would invest $200 billion per year for next decade and supports an alternative funding model to foot the bill.
As Congress gets ready to pick a "supercommittee" that must find at least $1.5 trillion to cut from the U.S. deficit, a bipartisan coalition backed by several political heavyweights has released a new report urging Congressional leaders to reconsider American investments in roads, ports, broadband and other elements of a high-tech transportation network.
The coalition, called the Building America's Future Educational Fund, doesn't mince words, suggesting that America's infrastructure is "falling apart" and that the economy is at peril because of this. For example, the declining infrastructure now costs American families an average of $1,000 annually in vehicle repairs, wasted time and so on.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, one of the fund's co-chairs, said the urgent need to invest in American infrastructure cannot be overlooked. What's more, he believes these investments can be made without adding a substantial amount of new debt to the country's extraordinary burden. Rather, the investments could come in the form of an Infrastructure Bank that would, instead, earn a return on projects over time.
"While we are doing serious debt reduction, we can still invest in American competitiveness," Rendell said.
Also co-chairing the coalition are New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The specific call to action in the group's report, "Falling Apart and Falling Behind," is a revitalization plan that specifies at least $200 billion in investment over the next decade. (The report was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.) One reason this should be attractive in the short term is that these investments could help spur the creation of an estimated five million jobs, according to Rendell. Right now, the major transportation policy under consideration includes a six-year proposal by the House transportation committee that would dramatically decrease funding in this area. Not the right approach, the coalition suggests.
"In Washington, everyone is talking about the need to fix the economy, but our long-term economic prospects will only get weaker the longer Congress allows our infrastructure to crumble. As Congress stands idly by, our competitors around the world are racing ahead -- especially when it comes to building modern transportation networks. Washington needs to get in gear transforming our infrastructure or else our economy will be stalling out for decades to come."
Consider these gloomy stats, repeated by Rendell on a phone briefing about the report:
- Seven out of the top 10 ports in the world are located in China; none are in the United States
- The U.S. rail system ranks 18th globally
- The U.S. air transportation system ranks 32nd in the world
I think it bears repeating that the coalition isn't naive enough to suggest that we oodles of new spending by the federal government, although there would be some: roughly $18 billion to $20 billion per year. Rather, it encourages the development of policy to inspire innovation and investment.
In fact, the idea of the infrastructure bank was sounded several times during the briefing. One formal idea, proposed in March 2011 by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), would create a financial authority for infrastructure projects. The concept has been embraced by President Obama, and it has been the subject of recent economic essays published by McKinsey and The New York Times. (Both of the links are articles by Michael Likosky, who is author of "Obama's Bank: Financial a Durable New Deal.")
The Infrastructure bank is one of four practical recommendations that are outlined in detail in the coalition's report.
- Adopt a nation strategy toward infrastructure investments, rather than handling them piece-meal on a short-term cycle and according to political agendas. Notes the report's authors: "To keep America economically competitive, this plan must be as significant in scale as the plans adopted by our competitor nations."
- Pass a REAL transportation bill, rather than recycling one that expired in 2009. The report wants this bill to focus on things that it believes will produce tangible economic benefits, including high-speed rail, the Next Gen aviation system, freight rail and public transit.
- Be innovative and realistic about how to pay. This is where the coalition advocates the idea of an Infrastructure Bank that will encourage private investment in the "best big projects." To do this, projects must be considered on a cross-state, cross-modal basis. In other words, the big picture must play a role in decisions. (See #1, where the coalition advocates a strategy.)
- Seek accountability. For any plan to succeed, practically, there must be clear criteria for funding and systems to make sure that project are completed on time, under budget and as expected.
Related posts on SmartPlanet:
- In Europe, social planning eases infrastructure policy
- Smart city formula: Equal parts vision, public-private cooperation and polity support
- Report: 6 ideas to fix the U.S. infrastructure mess
Aug 8, 2011
"One formal idea, proposed in March 2011 by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), would create a financial authority for infrastructure projects." We already have this in place. It is called the Department of Transportation with the Highway Trust Fund and other dedicated funds whose coffers are filled by our tax dollars. What ever the entity is we need to keep Congresses dirty hands out of those funds. Billions have been siphoned off over the last 40 years to pay for many pet projects that have nothing to do with the nations transportation infrastructure.
This write sent to TSTC could be of interest to many here. Any takers from SmartPlanet community? If we see any picture of road transport, we basically see two types of transport vehicles- namely 1> the heavy duty trucks and buses and 2> the passenger vehicles of all sizes, shapes and weights ( combination depending upon the place/city ). Typically the second type is in large number compared to the first one. We also know that the passenger vehicles are typically occupied with one or two passengers on an average ( commuting to and from place of work ). If we are able to develop a persoanl rapid transit system which will be able to take us from door to door ( accessible) and safely at highest possible speed and if we put this on elevated rail overhead then we can have almost all the ground space for human utilization--(walk, play, plant trees and enjoy!!) May be the write up below will be of interest to you all? With USA as the leading light almost the entire world followed on to the path of Automobile Story over the last 100 years and more. While it has supported the individual dreams of "personal Cars" of all shapes, sizes and colors it has created a huge "Cost-to-Society" issue which is now creating a cumulative disaster not just on economy but also on ecology front. At the same time USA has been a leading light in Science and Technology and for many like me across the globe, the bread and butter, has been earned because of scientific and technological advancements originated in USA. USA continues to be the "Last Hope" of a democratic, progressive and thinking mankind for future generations. Because of this I thought of writing to your organization the following idea which you could send it to any and all organizations who will support the development of this for the benefit of Humanity at large and certainly contributing to the TSTC initiatives. For the "old infrastructure" nations like USA this will mean an opportunity to rebuild transportation infrastructure in a way which will provide significant job opportunities in creating and maintaining it, will save energy bill (the fuel costs), will reduce air pollution globally and will create business opportunities for many organizations globally, At the same time the GM, FORD and TOYOTA of this world will have to divert their resources to this new technology to save themselves. My basic assumptions as to why the existing "private" owned car transportation will be less and less "Socially affordable" are as below: Globally prevalent narrow roads with increasingly larger and diverse vehicles being added in significant nos. everyday Average speed is very low compared to optimum fuel efficiency speed of the vehicle and including fuel wastage at the signals this is further inefficient. Even with flyovers the limitations of change of lanes and signals at cross overs are mostly unavoidable or are costly. Typically a vehicle weighing more than 1200 Kgs transport one or max two passengers (200 Kgs) on most of the week days. So the society (& environment) spends most of its fuel in transporting the vehicle weight and not really the passengers and their baggage. Last but not the least, the vehicle is typically used for max. 4 out of 24 hours in a day and expects to reserve two parking lots. Net dead assets will not be acceptable to society in due course. R&D efforts by global automotive players are not necessarily directed to improve transportation system in an integrated way but to improve the "Car" itself to make it more powerful, spacious, ergonomic etc. While all these are known, the PRT solutions such as those at Heathrow (shown on You Tube) have started demonstrating the possible future opportunities wherein the advantages of "private" and "public" transport may get together to provide a sustainable transportation solution. Coming to the idea proposed, I would like to state that the key aspects of the PRT system as below: (for which we need to develop a proto to prove it) Passive vehicles with active rail based external energy drivers. (For a known weight the force required is related to the geography- slope/angle etc.) (This part is the likely process patent potential) Light weight vehicles moving on mono-rail with narrow space requirement can mean multi-tiered transport ways for tracks one above another. Design to use existing broad gauge railway tracks such that on one rail line of today we can have both way traffic simultaneously. Possibility of same vehicle being transported at very high speed of 600 Km per hour (fastest in the world!!) on inter-city routes and the same vehicle can reach within a residential neighbourhood or near a car garage as being transported at slower speeds inside city. (Driving force is not vehicle dependent anyway in this system!!). Possibility of driver independent transport with due integration of communication and automation. Additional Future Opportunities: Vehicle being designed to suit the man or material being transported, the technology can be basically same for large no. of material handling applications in mines and plants etc. (Concept of "Unit of transport consumption is low weight and high speed") Monorail switchover being faster and related to light weight vehicle system, multiple tracks and routing possibilities. Net construction costs and time lower than any conventional system for same capacity hence project time becomes shorter providing faster solutions. I am sure that with the right business organizations coming together we could demonstrate the success of this concept and with due consortium business model look into the possibilities of a "Huge" global opportunity besides societal benefit through safe and speedy transport. Let us discuss with all the agencies who could design and develop this system. I assure you that their is no rocket science ( though USA knows that as well very well!!) in this proposal and within a matter of just two to three years these PRTs could be everywhere In Tri-States.