Building America’s Future, led by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has added their voice to the chorus calling for greater investment in U.S. infrastructure, lest the country fall behind its global competitors. In a new report, Falling Apart and Falling Behind, BAF recommends more focus on mass transit, a switch away from formula funding without performance requirements, and more emphasis on metropolitan areas.
A couple weeks ago, we took some heat from some of you, dear readers, about our coverage of a somewhat similar report from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Indeed, that report called for more infrastructure spending, but without specific recommendations on how to build a bettertransportation system. Charles Marohn at Strong Towns wrote a scathing critique of the report, questioning the urgent need to “spend trillions to save seconds” of commute time – especially the assertion that the U.S. should spend $2.2 trillion in order to save $1.0 trillion. Marohn went on to say:
At Strong Towns, we want our infrastructure maintained. In fact, it’s the common denominator of a Strong Town. But the reason why we can’t maintain our infrastructure is not because we lack the money or are afraid to spend it. It is because the systems we have built and the decisions we’ve made on what is a good investment are based on the kind of ridiculous math you see reflected in this ASCE report. We spend a billion here and a billion there and we get nothing but a couple minutes shaved off of our commutes, which just means we can build more roads and live further away from where we work. (Or, as we call that here in America: growth.)
Well put. And we’re glad to see that today’s contribution to the infrastructure debate goes deeper than the ASCE report in recommending concrete ways to build smarter, not just more.
Building America’s Future urges more spending, but says that to do it right, funding priorities should adhere to national strategies. And they’re not shy about spelling out what those are: more economic growth and mobility, less congestion and pollution. “Largely run on gasoline, our transportation system is environmentally, politically, and economically unsustainable,” they write.