In a piece today in TIME about growth and development in Raleigh, NC, Mitch Silver discusses the financial burdens many towns bear to support sparse development. To help reduce these costs, Raleigh has a comprehensive plan to guide economic growth and public and private investment in the city for the next 20 years. The plan is meant to help Raleigh “promote sustainability while maintaining and enhancing the natural and architectural assets of the City and promoting the social and economic welfare of its residents.”
The Brookings Institution hosted an event this morning titled “State Roads to Economic Recovery: Policies, Pavements, and Partnership.” The multi-panel event was organized in conjunction with the release of “Fix it First, Expand it Second, Reward it Third – A New Strategy for America’s Highways,” a new report from the Hamilton Project analyzing the impact of state and national transportation infrastructure investments.
Report coauthors Matt Kahn, Professor of Economics at UCLA, and David Levinson, of the University of Minnesota, presented their proposal to a packed crowd. Over 80% of the current U.S. highway system, they explained, was built before 1972 – almost forty years ago. Kahn and Levinson recommend a three-step approach to maintain this aging infrastructure: fix it first, expand it second and reward it third. By focusing on fixing existing infrastructure before creating new, states can boost their economy and maximize the number of jobs created.
As Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, highlighted, state governments are currently under tremendous pressure to transform their economies. Katz identified transportation infrastructure as a crucial future investment to drive growth in metro regions across the country. Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow at Brookings, highlighted how transit systems are necessary to, “move goods, ideas and workers quickly and efficiently.”
|Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner with CNBC anchor Erin Burnett at the Port of Tacoma, WA. Photo: Flickr/Port of Tacoma
In a post on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website today Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner voices his support for infrastructure investments as a tool for economic growth. Geithner explains that “targeted infrastructure investments are a necessary component of creating the middle-class jobs we need now and strengthening our foundation for future economic growth.”
Today’s post comes on the heels of October 2010’s Economic Analysis of Infrastructure Investment, a report by the Treasury which reiterated the fact that well designed infrastructure investments have long term economic benefits that disproportionately benefit the middle class. The report also noted that there is currently a high level of underutilized resources that can be used to improve and expand our infrastructure, as well as strong demand by the public and businesses for additional transportation infrastructure investments. From Treasury.gov:
Well-targeted infrastructure investments create both immediate and long-term economic benefits. Those benefits accrue not only where the infrastructure is located but also to communities all across the country.
When the Port of Seattle improves its connection with local freight railroads, it creates construction jobs for local workers – but the project’s benefits extend far across the heartland. By making it cheaper to transport cargo, this improvement will allow cattle ranchers in rural Montana to ship their beef to new markets across the world. Consumers who purchase imported goods and American businesses that are expanding their exports enjoy lower prices and improved access to new markets and goods…
In his State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a strategy to rebuild America’s economy, calling on the country to “Out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” He laid out strategies for better education, better energy production, better transportation and better job creation. All of these strategies are key to a stronger American economy.
It is time we remember and take pride in the fact that “America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.”
The President’s statement means we have to continue to expand our infrastructure and communities with an understanding of how the two connect and support one another, and that’s exactly what smart growth does. The big national decisions we make about budgets and investment can ultimately make life better in the towns and neighborhoods that knit this nation together.
A report out from the Department of Treasury this week reveals that fixing America’s roads and bridges will not only improve our drive to the store, it will help the country’s middle class and our long term economic health, too.
The new report (PDF) discusses the numerous benefits of investing in transportation infrastructure. Spending on infrastructure is one of the best ways to invest transportation funds. The fact that these projects create good, new jobs – and lots of them – is one big reason why. Yesterday’s report found that 72% of the jobs created by infrastructure spending are middle class jobs, defined as those which pay between the 25th and 75th percentile of the national distribution of wages. New jobs are a huge boon for the construction industry in particular, which is facing unemployment rates at nearly twice the national average.
In a time when state public infrastructure funds are already stretched thin, can we afford to exacerbate the problem by making infrastructure decisions that support sprawl, requiring expensive extension of roads and utilities? According to the New York state legislature the answer is no. Last month the state passed the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act.
In his New York Times blog yesterday, Edward Glaeser asks for nuance and careful thinking on the question of whether countries should spend their way out of the recession: there’s no one answer, and we need to look carefully at the situations different countries are in. Similarly with different kinds of public spending. Some work, some don’t. It’s a good argument, but one he then fails to apply to infrastructure.
Across the country, older cities are struggling with outdated water-sewer systems that collect sanitary sewage and stormwater runoff in a single pipe system. When a big storm occurs, the system gets overloaded: sewage combines with stormwater and runs into lakes and streams, causing serious water pollution and health issues. Cities are beginning to turn instead to “green” infrastructure as a viable alternative to addressing combined sewer overflow. Green infrastructure uses plants and porous pavement among other tools as natural ways to filter water, increase infiltration, and reduce stormwater runoff into pipes.
Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein had his own version today of a James Kunstler column on our economic “readjustment” going on right now — just without JK’s colorful metaphors. Most of it is about all the “mirage economies” and the bubbles that were all very related to each other. But there was one interesting … Continued
I’m back from a weeklong vacation, so you probably already saw Paul Krugman’s wonderful column in the New York Times last week that was subsequently posted and emailed all over the place, but it’s worth posting for posterity. In “Stranded in Suburbia,” Krugman muses on the differences in how high gas prices are devastating our … Continued