Good overview of ours from London, and an urgent call which needs a response from public leadership.
International Herald Tribune
Is aging infrastructure slowing the U.S.?
By Daniel Altman
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
For roughly a century, the United States has had the world's biggest economy. One of its strengths has been its infrastructure, from the rails and telegraph lines laid in the 19th century to the airports and fiber-optic networks of today. But as the United States struggles to stay ahead of China, is its aging infrastructure slowing it down?
In almost every area - from waterworks to bridges and dams, highways to mass transit - many experts have answered "yes." A report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers, issued in 2005, gave the nation C's and D's in 14 of 15 categories, with an "incomplete" added for security.
Some of these deficiencies have very real costs to economic growth. The poor condition of roads, the engineers estimated, costs $120 billion a year in repairs, operating costs and time wasted in traffic - that's equivalent to a full percentage point of the economy.
"There's a tremendous need," said Larry Roth, a professional engineer who is deputy executive director of the engineers' group. "Not only are we not keeping pace with growth, but we're not keeping pace with the maintenance that's required. As a result, our infrastructure is simply crumbling."
To eliminate its weaknesses, the United States would have to spend about $160 billion a year over five years, Roth added. That total of $800 billion is not so different from the $700 billion in estimated direct spending on the war in Iraq. Yet like investments in basic research and higher education, which may not pay off for decades, spending on infrastructure can be a tough sell for politicians.
Their time horizon is usually the next election, not the next generation. And at the national level, infrastructure has hardly been an issue. "The American public is really aware of infrastructure," Roth said. "However, their view of infrastructure is very local and focused. They don't look at infrastructure as a broad, statewide issue, and certainly they don't look at it as a national issue."