The investment in American infrastructure has been a key part of America’s rise as a global power. Infrastructure allows for the movement of goods and services to be transported wherever they might be needed. The Erie Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Panama Canal, and the Interstate Highway System are a few of these investments made by the United States which have helped grow the United States economy. According to the National Atlas the American infrastructure has about 3.9 million miles of roads, 2 million miles of pipe lines for oil and natural gas, 120,000 miles of major railroads, 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, 5,000 airports, and more than 300 ports on the coasts, Great Lakes, and inland waterways. With this entire infrastructure in place is more really needed to combat the congestion that we are facing?
Recently President Obama has announced that he will add a $476 billion bill to the 2013 budget dedicated to infrastructure by using tax dollars that the nation is saving from the winding down operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some think that this spending is unnecessary and is not what America needs. Edward Glaeser from the Bloomberg says the following, “America’s infrastructure needs intelligent reform, not floods of extra financing or quixotic dreams of new moon adventures or high-speed railways to nowhere.” The United States needs to look at what the country needs and should only make investments where there are real problems which can produce benefits which outweigh the costs. The government cannot allow feelings of insecurity based on what other nations are doing to cloud their judgment on what the United States needs. A big contributor of Spain’s current financial crisis is due over spending on high-speed rail investment. Some similar projects in China have raised serious safety problems and allegations of corruption rather than economic benefit. So if government spending might not be the answer to solving the infrastructure problems of America what would be? Glaeser provides seven ways to improve transportation in the United States.
- LET USERS PAY: Charge a fee on a per tonnage bases that should be used pay for the ageing infrastructure. The idea is that those who damage the infrastructure the most will pay for the repairs instead of the tax payers.
- IMPLEMENT CONGESTION PRICING: Drivers need to pay congestion that they are causing. If there is a valuable road there should be a toll to pay for using it and causing the extra congestion. Current tolls are not charging enough to influence drivers to choose different routes.
- DE-FEDERALIZE TRANSPORT SPENDING: The states should make decisions on what infrastructure their citizens need instead of the federal government. If the states are making the decisions they are also paying therefore money would be spend smarter.
- INSTITUTIONALIZE MAINTENANCE FUNDING: Instead of funding new projects we should invest and repair current infrastructure.
- PROMOTE PRIVATE-PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS: Instead of paying a company to do a project the government hands out bids and whichever company wins builds the project and pays for the cost upfront themselves. Then over time the firm makes its money from tolls. Cost will be low because the private sector would be paying the upfront cost. Project would get completed faster because of the motivation to start making money. Maintenance would be taken care of by the private sector.
- CHERISH THE BUS: Busses are a good way to reduce congestion, and are also more flexible than trains and just as fast if routed properly.
- SPLIT UP THE PORT AUTHORITY: Current port and airport officials have too much that they are responsible for. The inflow of travelers and goods is too high there must be authority to help out. In order to pay for this a fee should be added to landing fee on port and airports.
America needs to revaluate its current transportation system and make the changes needed to insure that the proper project and funding are being used to allow the economy to flourish in the 21st century.