Category Archives: Infrastructure

Good Buildings, Better Schools: An Economic Stimulus Opportunity With Long-Term Benefits

Source: Mary Filardo, EPI Briefing Paper, April 29, 2008

From the summary:
The nation’s 97,000 public school buildings comprise an estimated 6.6 billion square feet of space on over 1 million acres of land. And while states and local communities invested over $500 billion in K-12 school building improvements from 1995 to 2004, considerable additional investments are needed to ensure that the nation’s public schools are healthy, safe, environmentally sound, and built and maintained to support a high-quality education.

Today, many of the nation’s schools face the combined challenges of deteriorating conditions, out-of date design, and changing utilization pressures (including intense overcrowding in some communities and rapidly declining enrollments in others). These combined deficiencies impair the quality of teaching and learning and contribute to health and safety problems for staff and students. Building design and facility conditions have also been associated with teacher motivation and student achievement.
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Press release

Report shows U.S. infrastructure needs immediate improvement

Source: American City and County, May 1, 2008

The United States risks losing its ability to compete globally if steps are not taken immediately to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, according to a report released Tuesday by the Washington-based Urban Land Institute (ULI). The report, “Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage,” calls for the creation of a federal framework to replace the “outdated” regional planning process that has led to “a mish-mash of disconnected regional infrastructure management approaches.”
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Press release

Transportation and the Economy

Source: Brookings Institution, Opportunity 08, April 28, 2008

From the summary:
On April 28, the Brookings Institution’s Opportunity 08 project hosted U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters for a discussion of America’s transportation infrastructure. Secretary Peters focused on the challenges facing the nation’s transportation network, and how local, state and national leaders can take advantage of new technology and approaches to unleash a new wave of transportation investments in this country.

Watch the video

Investing In U.S. Infrastructure – Promoting Economic Stimulus And Growth

Source: John Irons, Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper #217, April 29, 2008

The Agenda for Shared Prosperity’s central aim is to articulate policy options that will spur growth, reduce economic insecurity, and provide broadly shared prosperity. A central component of achieving individual economic opportunity is ensuring that the economy is growing at a solid pace–both by smoothing the short-term dips and by promoting investments for long-term growth.

Public investments in the nation’s infrastructure, which lay the foundation for long-term growth, have been insufficient in recent years. Visible catastrophic failures are evident in the breach of the levies in New Orleans, the collapse of a major bridge in Minneapolis, and power blackouts that flowed from the Mid-West to New York City. Less visible failures are evident in the slow seepage of sewers into our waterways and in the slow deployment of broadband Internet access.

In a time of economic weakness, public investments in the nation’s infrastructure can provide short-term stimulus and build the foundation for long-term economic growth. Federal investments in infrastructure, including transportation, school buildings, and information networks, are required to address critical national needs and to create jobs and spur the economy.

Look Out Below! America’s Infrastructure Is Crumbling

Source: Eric Kelderman,, January 22, 2008

“Much of America is held together by Scotch tape, bailing wire and prayers,” said Donald F. Kettl, director of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

Fixing these problems and others threatening the nation’s critical infrastructure would cost $1.6 trillion — more than half of the annual federal budget, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates. And that doesn’t include what it will cost for new capacity to serve a growing population.

Recognizing the importance of structures so integral to U.S. commerce and Americans’ well-being and safety, local, state and federal governments already are budgeting nearly two-thirds of the $1.6 trillion needed for infrastructure work. The problem is they raid many of those funds for other purposes, ASCE says.

Infrastructure is the four-syllable jawbreaker that governments use to describe the concrete, stone, steel, wires and wood that Americans rely on every day but barely notice until something goes awry. Broadly speaking, it includes airports, the electrical energy grid, hazardous and solidwaste storage sites, navigable inland waterways, public parks, schools and even the security to protect all of those structures.

This article was excerpted from “State of the States 2008,”’s annual report

America’s Infrastructure: Ramping Up or Crashing Down

Source: The Brookings Institution

Infrastructure has a dramatic effect on the economic competitiveness of our nation, the health of our environment and our quality of life. And infrastructure–freight ports, airports, bridges, roads, rail and transit networks, water and sewer systems, web of channel communications–is the connective tissue of our nation. Smart policies and investments can enhance and further national prosperity and the health and vitality of metropolitan areas, where the bulk of our population lives and jobs are located.

A long-term infrastructure plan can foster productive growth in our economy, sustainable growth that furthers energy independence and real solutions to climate change and inclusive growth so that low and moderate-income families have access to opportunity.

With these critical issues in mind, the third Bernard L. Schwartz Forum on Competitiveness explored the challenges and opportunities for new infrastructure investment. The October 10, 2007 event followed in the wake of two previous forums that focused on American education, innovation, and research and development (April 2006) and America’s position in the world in science and technology (October 2006).

In his keynote address, Thomas Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, emphasized that better investments in infrastructure would make us safer; more secure and lead to happier and safer constituents. In sum, infrastructure investments make for good policy that both Republicans and Democrats should support.

Full Document (PDF; 80 KB)


States are poised to spend billions on fixing infrastructure. They might want to fix the construction industry first.
Source: ZACH PATTON, Governing, November 2007

…That’s a big problem because in the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, states are poised to make some big infrastructure investments. As that calamity made clear, many of America’s roadways, bridges and tunnels are in critical condition after decades of deferred maintenance. In some places, the needs are especially pressing. Massachusetts needs to spend $17 billion on repairs, according to one report. In Pennsylvania, the tab for bridge maintenance is $11 billion. In New Jersey, it’s more than $13.5 billion. Overall, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s infrastructure system a grade of “D,” and the group says that fixing the country’s existing problems is a job with a $1.6 trillion price tag.

As states redouble their efforts on maintenance, the trick will be to produce more successful projects such as the MacArthur Maze and fewer tarnished ones along the lines of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. It won’t be easy. Issues of cost overruns and missed deadlines have plagued construction projects for years. And transportation departments will continue to deal with a construction industry that is, in many ways, antiquated, inefficient and wasteful. Minnesota, still shaking off the shock of seeing a key transportation asset crumble into the Mississippi River, is now grappling with its replacement cost soaring toward $400 million. That’s 57 percent higher than the amount the federal government set aside for the bridge. And construction hasn’t even begun yet.

When a Bridge Falls Down

Source: Matt Sundeen, State Legislatures, October/November 2007

The catastrophic collapse of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in August sent shockwaves that reverberated well beyond the immediate vicinity of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The deteriorating condition of the country’s network of highways, bridges and rail lines is a problem that has long concerned transportation experts. For most, the bridge collapse was a call-to-action to fund overdue improvements and fix the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure. Although many federal, state and local lawmakers agree repairs are needed, what the appropriate response should be continues to be a matter for debate.

Remaking Transportation Infrastructure

Source: The Brookings Institution, August 2007

Potholes, rough surfaces, and rusting bridges are manifestations of America’s deteriorating infrastructure, tragically demonstrated with the disaster in Minneapolis.

State and local leaders are already clamoring for more federal money to prevent future tragedies. But just two years ago, states got a mammoth $244 billion for transportation. But the bill also contained over 6,000 earmarks, many dedicated to new projects, and awarded with no coherent plan or national priority.

The Metropolitan Policy Program’s Transportation Reform Series, led by Fellow Robert Puentes, has broadly reassessed the nation’s transportation policies, providing options beyond the current hodgepodge of pet projects, to better address these critical needs.