Deteriorating Infastructure Hurting America

U.S. infrastructure is in a sad state, and little is being done to fix the situation, warned Dale Reiss, global and Americas director of real estate for Ernst & Young, during the Urban Land Institute Spring Council Forum opening general session. “The real tragedy is we’re spending money but we’re not really strategically investing,” she warned. Reiss’s observations referenced the report Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage, recently released by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young. According to the report, 24 percent of roads are in poor condition, while about 25 percent of bridges are structurally deficient, she noted. Yet by 2040, there will be more than 100 million more people in the United States, driving over those roads and bridges. Meanwhile, U.S. ports remain overcrowded, with demand likely to double or even triple, yet the country is represented only once among the world’s 10 largest ports, despite being the largest importer. In addition, with many airports operating at or near capacity, and in some cases at overcapacity, the country needs at least three new airports by 2015 but none are even being discussed yet. And the United States is the only industrialized country with no real use of high-speed trains. Yet “I’m optimistic … there is a tipping point occurring,” Reiss said. That despite the fact that the expected call to arms following the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge last year did not materialize. New funding strategies will be needed, however, whether they be user fees and other highway charges, gas taxes or public-private partnerships, which have worked well in a number of other countries (she also suggested that, with $225 billion needed annually to achieve what’s needed, the stimulus checks being issued to consumers would have filled the gap). And the report recommended that states stop encouraging developers to build in suburban fringe areas, instead focusing on growth of infill areas.