The United States needs to overhaul its outdated regional infrastructure planning process and create a viable federal framework, or face compromising its ability to compete in a global marketplace, according to a new report
co-published by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young.

"Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage" provides a snapshot of current and planned infrastructure investment in a variety of categories across the globe, with an in-depth look at the United States, China, Japan, India and Europe. The second annual report also touches on the infrastructure needs in several of the nation's largest metropolitan areas, highlighting the consequences of inadequate federal policy and guidelines that have resulted in "a mish-mash of disconnected regional infrastructure management approaches."

"The status quo increasingly looks like a precarious option -- relying on existing networks and systems will only hamstring future growth and compromise sustainability," the report states. "2008 seemingly marks a critical juncture in a rapidly changing economic environment where new approaches to land use, infrastructure and energy efficiency will likely determine and possibly reorder the next generation of winners and losers-countries, companies, investors, and peoples."

The report says the United States is headed toward decline, and needs to wake up to the dire state of its infrastructure, but cautions that "political will may only emerge when people face imminent reward or immediate risk -- a bridge collapse or a burst levee, and maybe not even then." The report estimates that the U.S. has at least a $170 billion annual funding gap in addition to its outmoded land use and infrastructure models. "America heads for a crisis in the next 10 years if nothing is done," warns the report.

"It is increasingly clear that the infrastructure funding gap will need to be addressed with public/private partnerships," said Dale Anne Reiss, Global Director of Real Estate, Ernst & Young, LLP in New York City. "If the U.S. fails to embrace this model, it could lead to our economy falling behind more of our global competitors."

The report notes that a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate proposes a national infrastructure bank, while other proposed legislation calls for "Build America Bonds" to pay for transportation infrastructure. A number of recommendations are included in the report, such as: breaking down government silos, focusing on deferred maintenance, and developing national and regional infrastructure plans.

"Government needs to set a policy course that enables greater mobility and productivity as the nation's population grows and concentrates in major gateways and mega regions," the report concludes.

The proposed infrastructure bank might provide a solution to a weakening economy by funding job programs related to rebuilding infrastructure, states the report. "A jobs program can be a means to an end, a powerful tool for economic development, funding future infrastructure to increase employment and improve economic competitiveness."

Another key finding: "Land use and transportation planning must be coordinated at state and regional levels… and transit authorities need to operate with common purpose." And regional planning needs to align with national priorities.

The report also recommends new funding strategies, including: user fees; interstate toll roads; funding based on reducing vehicle miles traveled; subsidies to encourage infill housing and commercial development served by mass transit in pedestrian-friendly communities; stop subsidizing sprawl; and stop tapping user fees to make up for other shortfalls.

Copies of the report are available at