Reuters is reporting that New York’s infrastructure funding gap amounts to almost $90 billion. The state’s comptroller has reviewed spending and the aftermath of hurricane Sandy and found that New York’s cities and counties need to spend $250 billion on water, sewer and highway systems over the next 20 years to maintain transportation, water, waste and other infrastructural systems. Currently some $161 billion in spending is planned.
This follows news that Texas and Colorado are trying to change their tax structures and limits in order to fund long term, multi-billion dollar funding for everything from education to highway and bridge repairs. News reports from the end of 2012 also seem to point to growing difficulties with planning and managing multi-year (and multi-budget year) projects.
Ironically, on the federal level, funding for major road and transportation projects is on a continuing downward slide due to something very different from what most people expect. It’s not the economy– it’s efficiency that is causing a funding problem.
The amount of money collected by the U.S. federal 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax is used to fund transportation projects across all 50 states. But gas tax revenues will continue to decline because cars are getting more efficient. As new technologies, designs, and congressionally mandated rules for auto manufacturing creates more gas efficient cars the total amount of gas taxes collected has stayed constant or declined. (The recession also played havoc with this funding when fewer people were driving to work, on vacations, and companies took steps to reduce their transportation costs.)
According to new poll conducted by Clarus Research Group on behalf of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers 77 percent of American citizens are in favor of “rebuilding” or “modernization” infrastructure in the U.S..
The money for funding those improvements will have to come from somewhere.
There is a strong and growing concern for infrastructure development, repair, and change in the United States and abroad. News media and political campaigns have joined professional engineering societies and regional development groups to call for renovation and renewed focus on energy, transportation, water and other infrastructures.
Internationally there are major efforts in China, South Korea, Malaysia, Indian and several African countries to expand and rebuild infrastructure systems. Pipeline projects connecting Canada and the US are also gaining wider notice as changes in gas development technologies makes more resources available but access remains limited without adequate transportation conduits. Government and industry leaders in the UK and EU are wrestling with a lack of comprehensive and scalable approaches to maintaining what exists or building new capacity.
The global recession hampered public-private funding efforts for large projects and long deferred maintenance has become a critical problem in every corner of the world. Global project development firms like Booz Allen are making more public, more widely promoted statements about moving forward in key infrastructure projects like transportation and energy.
In a new online and traditional media push leaders at Booz Allen are pressing for change. “Much of America’s critical infrastructure is failing—threatening our economic growth, national competitiveness and even our national security. In the past, we excelled at imagining infrastructure—witness the Erie Canal and the national highway system—and now we need to re-imagine America’s infrastructure with new ways of approaching the issues.”
Groups like the American Society for Civil Engineers now routinely make headlines with their evaluations of transportation and water infrastructure systems with “report cards” filled with bad and failing grades. Political posturing in the US, not something new, stopped different proposals for funding from moving through the legislature.
But the coming year may see changes in public and political stances on infrastructure systems. Elections in the US and elsewhere may force these often neglected systems into a spotlight.
The online version of Railway Gazette has a global survey up detailing the biggest of the world’s railway infrastructure investments in the final quarter of 2011. Maintenance and structural work dominate, but there are many varied projects moving forward.
Read the article here.