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Report Shows U.S. Lagging Way Behind in Transportation Infrastructure

May 15, 2007

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The United States' relatively low investment in virtually all aspects of mobility-related infrastructure - airports, public transit, railway systems, roads and bridges - is an "emerging crisis" that will compromise
the ability of the nation's cities to compete globally, according to a new report co-published by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst Young.
Infrastructure 2007: A Global Perspective offers a comprehensive look at the status of current and planned infrastructure investment and development in a variety of categories in countries worldwide, with a particular focus on the United States, China, Japan, India, and Europe. The first of its kind, the report discusses the evolving infrastructure market, including private and combination public-private systems for funding, construction, operations and management.
"America is more of a follower and no longer a world leader when it comes to infrastructure," the report states. "Other countries marshal vanguard strategies and provide the contemporary lessons for developing best practices in public/private finance, intermodal transport, congestion pricing and high-speed rail...Too often (in the U.S.), projects focus on restoration rather than rethinking the model and finding possible efficiencies...There is a tendency to invest in the infrastructure we have instead of the infrastructure we will need."
The varied attitudes toward and approaches to infrastructure investment are reflected in different data provided in the report, such as: 1) Japan has 2,000 kilometers of high-speed rail and is building about 300 more kilometers by 2020; China is planning to build more than 2,500 kilometers of high-speed rail by 2020; the U.S. has about 300 kilometers, but is building none.
2) As of 2000, there were more than 750 cars per 1,000 people in the U.S.; in the U.K., just over 500 cars per 1,000 people; in China, less than 50 per 1,000 (although this number is rising, it still is far less than the U.S.).
3) Two of the 10 most expensive infrastructure projects worldwide involving private investment are in France; the third most expensive is in the United States; none are in China.
The report, first released this month at the ULI's Spring Council Forum in Chicago, is being presented to ULI members by ULI Vice Chairman Dale Ann Reiss, global director of real estate at Ernst Young in New York City.
According to Reiss, the private sector is going to play a significant role in what she predicts will be a global movement to build and modernize the world's infrastructure.
She is expecting a fundamental shift in the current business model that will change the playing field across the board. "One thing in this report that is crystal clear to a Friedmanian economist like me is that the private sector - by virtue of both the capital it controls and the skill sets it exhibits - is going to play an increasingly important role in the effective and efficient development of infrastructure here in the U.S. and abroad over the next 50 years," says Reiss. "Public-private partnerships are here to stay and may well be the only viable way for governments to reach
their infrastructure development goals."

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