Infrastructure Demands Will Be Major Challenge: ULI Report

A report just released by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young concludes that the U.S. will fall behind in the global marketplace if it doesn’t invest in modernizing its infrastructure. The report, Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage, evaluates the status of existing and planned infrastructure investment not only in the U.S. but in China, Europe, India, Japan and Europe, as well. According to the study, the federal government has been falling asleep on the job, having created what is now a gap in infrastructural funding that is at least $170 billion. Consequences of the inadequate financing are tangible. Vehicle miles traveled jumped 95 percent since 1980, while road capacity rose by a mere 3 percent. ULI and Ernst & Young conclude that the land-use plans that have caused sprawl over the last few decades will, if they continue to be implemented in the future, have a negative impact on urban growth and will hinder productivity, which could greatly reduce the country’s competitive edge at the global level. As it stands now, the U.S. is grouped with Australia, Canada and Russia in the category defined as “coasting on prosperity.” Other stages include “retool and revamp” and “inadequate investment,” as well as the “growth and development” category into which China, India and the U.A.E. presently fall. The report suggests that, in an effort to move forward, the U.S. should rely on public private partnerships to address the lack of financing for the infrastructure that is necessary to accommodate overwhelming population growth, and all plans should be synchronized at the state and regional levels. Other recommendations include the provision of subsidies to facilitate an increase in the construction of housing in infill areas, and the building of transit-oriented developments.  Timing, ULI and Ernst and Young note, is crucial, as this year appears to be a turning point in the economic environment, and the approach to land use and infrastructure plans now could place the country in a gainful position or a detrimental one for the next generation.