Dire straits for U.S. infrastructure

U.S. needs $2 trillion to fix transportation problems and remain a global leader, according to a recent report

News Washington Post May 18, 2011
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The U.S. requires $2 trillion to overhaul infrastructure and remain competitive in a global marketplace, according to the Washington Post.
A new study by the Urban Land Institute indicates that the U.S. is falling drastically behind many world competitors in rebuilding and expanding its outdated transportation network.

With the debt ceiling at its max and long-term transportation plans bogged down in Congress, the U.S. lags behind competitors like Brazil, China and India, said the report.

The report, the latest in a series of studies concluding calamitous long-term consequences if the nation does not invest in transportation, poses a dreary vision of the future: a time in which federal gas tax will go up; local governments are allowed to toll interstate highways; water bills will rise to pay for pipe and sewer replacement; property and sales taxes will increase; and private, profit-seeking companies will play a much larger role in funding and maintaining public projects.

Two major bills that allow for long-term funding and planning for aviation and transportation have failed in Congress. The Federal Aviation Administration has been operating under a funding bill that expired in 2007 and has been extended 18 times. The surface transportation act, which provides the balance of federal transportation funding, expired in 2009 and has been extended seven times.

As Congress debates how much to spend on infrastructure and where to find the money, other countries have made it a high priority. China has a plan to spend $1 trillion on projects in five years, including a 10,000-mile high-speed rail network by 2020 and new airports, ports and transit systems. India is nearing the end of a $500 billion investment phase that has seen major highway improvements and plans to double that amount by 2017. Brazil has pigeonholed $900 billion for energy and transportation projects by 2014 and is pushing ahead with road, transit and water projects to accommodate its fast-growing economy, and to prepare for upcoming World Cup and Summer Olympics games. The UK—despite a scaled-down budget—has committed $326 billion over the next five years for projects related to rail, energy production and broadband access.

The ULI report says Congress’ wish to curb spending will push costs onto “budget-busted” state and local governments. It points to highways and water treatment plants, built with federal funds 40 to 50 years ago, that will become financial albatrosses to local governments as the time comes for replacement.

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