Infrastructure study: Status quo a precarious option for U.S.
The United States needs to overhaul its outdated regional infrastructure planning process and create a viable federal framework, according to a recent report co-published by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Ernst & Young.
Maintaining the status quo, note the study’s authors, could greatly reduce the United States’ ability to compete in a global marketplace.
“Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage” provides a snapshot of current and planned infrastructure investment in a variety of categories around the world, with a detailed look at the United States, China, Japan, India and Europe. This, the second annual report in a series, also touches on the infrastructure needs in several of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, highlighting the consequences of inadequate federal policy and guidelines that have resulted in “a mish-mash of disconnected regional infrastructure management approaches.”
“The status quo increasingly looks like a precarious option — relying on existing networks and systems will only hamstring future growth and compromise sustainability,” the report states. “2008 seemingly marks a critical juncture in a rapidly changing economic environment where new approaches to land use, infrastructure and energy efficiency will likely determine and possibly re-order the next generation of winners and losers — countries, companies, investors and peoples.”
Report: U.S. needs to wake up
The report asserts that the United States is headed toward decline, and needs to wake up to the dire state of its infrastructure, but cautions that “political will may only emerge when people face imminent reward or immediate risk — a bridge collapse or a burst levee, and maybe not even then.”
The report estimates that the United States has at least a $170 billion annual funding gap in addition to its outmoded land use and infrastructure models. “America heads for a crisis in the next 10 years if nothing is done,” the report warns.
“It is increasingly clear that the infrastructure funding gap will need to be addressed with public/private partnerships,” said Dale Reiss, global director of real estate at Ernst & Young in New York City. “If the U.S. fails to embrace this model, it could lead to our economy falling behind more of our global competitors.”
According to Richard Rosan, president of ULI Worldwide, “Infrastructure investment and development are having stronger-than-ever implications for urban growth patterns.”
“If we continue to minimize transportation infrastructure as a federal priority, we are setting our urban areas up for decline, rather than prosperity,” Rosan said. “This country simply cannot afford to keep treating infrastructure as an afterthought.”
‘Coasting on prosperity’
The report identifies four stages of the infrastructure life cycle, and identifies the United States, Canada and Australia as “coasting on prosperity.”
According to the report:
- India, China and the United Arab Emirates are in the “growth and development” stage.
- The United Kingdom, the European Union, Spain, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Panama are in the “retool and revamp” stage.
- Mexico, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Russia are in the “inadequate investment” stage.