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New funding not enough to close Canada's infrastructure gap, report says


Increased public funding won’t be enough to address Canada's deteriorating infrastructure needs now or in the future, according to the Conference Board of Canada's new report.

Higher spending levels must be complemented with improved productivity of infrastructure systems, according to the study, "Tapped Out: Efficiency Options for Closing the Municipal Infrastructure Gap."

The report assesses the productivity performance of four types of transportation services in Canada. Two of those services — freight rail and natural gas distribution — have experienced increased productivity in recent years as a result of regulatory and industry structural changes, Conference Board officials said in a prepared statement.

The freight-rail sector's multifactor productivity, or the ratio of output to input growth over time, grew by an average of 3.4 percent annually since 1986, "which is a remarkably strong growth rate," the board said. Capital investment has been stable over the past two decades in freight rail and natural gas distribution; as a result, both infrastructures are "generally in good shape."

However, urban transit and municipal water services have not achieved similar productivity growth, the study found. Urban transit productivity declined between 1986 and 2008. Greater use of fares that vary by time and distance should be considered as one option to help close the urban transit infrastructure gap, the report recommended.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/17/2011