May Newsline: Water rate increase for Sacramento, federal money in play for water/sewer upgrades

May 2009 Vol. 64 No. 5

New approaches needed to build U.S. infrastructure

If the United States is to build the infrastructure it truly needs for the 21st Century, then new approaches are needed, experts from business, trade associations, labor and the academic world, together with current and former policymakers, recently agreed.

Such experts gathered at the Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure for Global Competitiveness, conference hosted by Iona College and sponsored by Terex Corporation, to explain that the nation needs to re-think the way it plans and invests in infrastructure initiatives, putting politics aside and making “smart” choices that will benefit the nation’s economic well being for the long run.

“Our infrastructure is deteriorating faster than we can keep up with it, let alone dealing with new capacity, and it is seldom tailored to the challenges of today,” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. “While problems get more acute, too many politicians will focus on what they don't want to do and what they’re against, as opposed to what they can do, what they should do and what they will do, and then proceed with programs as they have done for 10 or 20 or 50 years or more. We no longer have that luxury. Luckily, I think there is a perfect storm that is aligning for solutions.”

Andrew Herrmann, chairman of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2009 Report Card on America’s Infrastructure, estimates that $2.2 trillion will be needed over five years to bring the nation’s infrastructure “back to a good condition.” He echoed a recurrent theme of the conference saying, “This year’s economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, basically included about $100 billion for infrastructure. And it was an important first step in improving the nation’s infrastructure. While this is a substantial amount, the amount invested should only be seen as a down payment on the sustained investment needed for our infrastructure.”

Keynote speaker Gerard Mooney, general manager of Global Government and Education at IBM, commented that our country has the opportunity to build infrastructure for the future. “I totally believe that the technology is ready to deploy. It’s really about shifting and starting to meld the digital with the physical infrastructure and coming up with new systems. And what that means is that the associations and the people who are responsible for either funding this type of infrastructure, or building it, or advising on it, or planning it, they now have to start thinking about what are the other disciplines we need to bring into the dialogue.”