Monday, August 08, 2011

Building America's Future: Falling Apart & Falling Behind

Aug 8: The Building America's Future Educational Fund (BAFEF), a bipartisan and national infrastructure coalition comprised of state and locally elected officials, released a new study that lays out the economic challenges posed by our ailing infrastructure. The report, Building America's Future: Falling Apart and Falling Behind, provides a comparative look at the smart investments being made by our international competitors and suggests a series of recommendations for crafting new innovative transportation policies in the U.S.
    The Building America's Future Educational Fund (BAF Ed Fund) is a bipartisan coalition of elected officials dedicated to bringing about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life. Founded by former Governor Edward Rendell (D-PA), former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NYC) of New York, the BAF Ed Fund boasts a politically diverse membership of state and local elected officials from across the nation. The BAF Ed Fund seeks to advance a new national vision for infrastructure investment that strengthens our cities and rural communities, focuses on economic growth and global competitiveness, job creation, and environmental sustainability. In addition, we embrace a wide definition of infrastructure - from roads and bridges to water and sewer systems, energy systems, buses, trains, ports, airports, levees, dams, schools and housing.

    The first section of the report, A Building Crisis, makes the case why U.S. infrastructure has fallen from first place in the World Economic Forum's 2005 economic competitiveness ranking to number 15 today. The second section of the report, Losing Ground to Our Global Competitors, takes an international look at transportation infrastructure and highlights certain themes that unify our competitors' plans while setting our transportation policies apart. The third section of the report, Recommendations for Reform, contains a clear set of recommendations for moving our economy-- and the case for strategic investment in infrastructure—forward.
    Former Governor Rendell, BAFEF co-chair said, "There are always excuses to delay tough decisions, but the time has come for the U.S. to commit to a long-term infrastructure revitalization plan that invests at least $200 billion a year. It should focus on transportation but should also include our water and wastewater systems, our dams, our electric grid and our broadband system. At a time when our nation is crying out for job creation, this plan can produce millions of good-paying American jobs over a sustained period of time." Mayor Bloomberg (I-NYC), BAFEF co-chair said, "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 into gear transforming our infrastructure or else our economy will be stalling out for decades to come."

    The report explains how international economic competitors are sprinting ahead of the U.S. and outlines the case for creating a blueprint to transition to a high-tech transportation network for the 21st century. The report also contains many sobering statistics detailing how the U.S. is falling behind including:
  • U.S. infrastructure has fallen from first place in the World Economic Forum's 2005 economic competitiveness ranking to number 15 today; 
  • China now boasts six of the world's top ten ports -- and none of the top ten are located in the U.S.  The Shanghai port now moves more container traffic a year than the top seven U.S. ports combined;
  • The U.S. has the world's worst air traffic congestion -- a quarter of flights in the U.S. arrive more than 15 minutes late, and the national average for all delayed flights in the U.S. (about 56 minutes) is twice that of Europe's average;
  • There are more than 15,000 miles of true high-speed rail in operation around the world – essentially none of which is in the U.S.;
  • The U.S. is one of the only leading nations without a national plan for public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects or a National Infrastructure Bank to finance large-scale projects and leverage private capital.
    The final section of the report is a set of recommendations for moving the economy forward through strategic investments in infrastructure including:
  • Develop a long-term national infrastructure strategy that makes choices based on economics, not politics.
  • Pass a robust transportation bill that focuses investment on projects that will increase economic return and mobility while reducing congestion and pollution. Such a bill will put Americans back to work and make the U.S. more competitive in the global economy.
  • Be both innovative and realistic about how to pay (including the establishment of a National Infrastructure Bank) and looking at all long-term revenue generating options including congestion pricing, carbon auctions, fees based on miles traveled, and – once the economy recovers – an updated gas-tax.
  • Promote accountability and innovation by setting clear criteria for all funding; encouraging innovation by states and the country's largest cities through competitive grants; and carefully auditing the results to ensure projects are completed on time, on budget, and yielding promised results.
     Access a release from BAFEF (click here). Access the complete 48-page report (click here). Access a 4-page Executive Summary (click here). Access a 3-page fact sheet (click here). Access the BAF website for more information and background (click here). [#All]