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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Bipartisan coalition calls for major investment in U.S. infrastructure


Yesterday, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, a bipartisan and national infrastructure coalition, released a report that examines the economic challenges posed by the United States’ ailing transportation infrastructure.

Titled “Falling Apart and Falling Behind,” the report reviews “smart investments” being made by international economic competitors and provides recommendations for crafting new transportation policies that will spur U.S. economic growth.

“There are always excuses to delay tough decisions, but the time has come for the U.S. to commit to a long-term infrastructure revitalization plan that invests at least $200 billion a year,” said Ed Rendell, the coalition’s co-chairman and former Pennsylvania governor, in a prepared statement.

The report includes statistics that show how the United States is falling behind international competitors that are investing in high-tech transportation systems. For example, U.S. infrastructure has fallen from first place in the World Economic Forum’s 2005 economic competitiveness rankings to No. 15 today.

Other report observations include:

•    There are more than 15,000 miles of “true” high-speed rail systems in operation around the world, none of which are located in the United States.

•    China has six of the world’s top 10 ports and none of the top 10 are in the United States. The Shanghai port now moves more container traffic annually than the top seven U.S. ports combined.

•    Unlike other leading nations, the United States lacks a national plan for public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, or a national infrastructure bank to finance large-scale projects and leverage private capital.

The report recommends steps to spur the economy through strategic investments in infrastructure, including:

•    the development of a long-term national infrastructure strategy that makes choices based on economics, not politics;

•    the passage of a “robust” transportation bill that invests projects that will increase economic return and mobility while reducing congestion and pollution; and

•    the establishment of a national infrastructure bank and analysis of other long-term revenue generating options, including congestion pricing, carbon auctions, fees based on miles traveled and an updated gas tax.

“In Washington, everyone is talking about the need to fix the economy, but our long-term economic prospects will only get weaker the longer Congress allows our infrastructure to crumble,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also co-chairs the coalition. “As Congress stands idly by, our competitors around the world are racing ahead, especially when it comes to building modern transportation networks.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/9/2011