America 2050 Update: December 16, 2008

In This Update:
  • America 2050 Call to New Administration: Invest Wisely
  • About America 2050

Call to New Administration: Only One Chance to Do this Right, Invest Wisely
 
After underinvesting in infrastructure for decades, America stands ready to invest and invest big. President-elect Obama's weekly video address on December 6 called for "the largest investment in infrastructure since the National Highway System" as a way to stimulate the nation's economy. As Congressman Earl Blumenauer noted at a recent America 2050 forum in Sacramento, "For those who care about infrastructure issues, we finally have the nation's attention."
 
And yet, with estimates of the size of the stimulus bill ranging from $350 billion to $1 trillion, the danger of wasting the money on "bridges to nowhere" is a real concern. President-elect Obama has noted the need for the stimulus plan to put us on a "glide path for long-term sustainable growth," which is exactly what America 2050 recommends. We've yet to see details however to convince us that this is the approach that Congress and the new Administration will take.
 
In response, a coalition of leading civic, business, environmental organizations and transportation officials convened by America 2050 for a transportation policy retreat last week released a statement today calling on the incoming Obama administration and the U.S. Congress to invest wisely in the proposed economic stimulus and recovery plan focused on infrastructure.
 
The group urged the President-elect to get this investment right with a five-step program: Fix, Phase, Green, Train and Count.
 
You can download the complete statement here. (PDF 112K)
 

The key points are excerpted below.

I.    FIX: To immediately create jobs and stimulate economic growth we need to "fix it first," that is, invest in the repair and maintenance of the country's deteriorated bridges, roads, public transit, passenger & freight rail, electric grids and other essential infrastructure components that have been neglected for decades.
II.    PHASE: All the monies cannot be spent at once. While we must get a first group of "shovel ready" projects under construction as soon as possible, there are limits to the number of projects that can be initiated immediately. A series of phases should allow for the development of strategic projects, job training, and the building of capacity in construction, manufacturing, engineering and project management fields - all of which are essential to successfully carrying out the work.
III.    GREEN: Priority should be given to projects that foster energy independence, safeguard the environment, promote healthy & compact communities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
IV.    TRAIN: Investment in America's infrastructure will create hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs, both immediately and for decades to come. To ensure that these large-scale projects are completed quickly and successfully, we need to invest in job training programs that will provide our workforce with the required skills. And, equally important, the jobs should be accessible to the people in the communities most deeply affected by the current economic crisis.
V.    COUNT: Funding must be set aside to measure and analyze the results of these federal investments and their outcomes: job creation, cost-effectiveness, greenhouse gas reductions, increased energy efficiency, etc.
 
ACCOUNTABILITY - NEW OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE
If America is to remain economically competitive, we cannot afford "business as usual" when it comes to infrastructure investments. Therefore, a new federal oversight committee is required to both streamline the investment process and also establish accountability.
 
We propose creating a National Recovery and Renewal Council, comprised of representatives from federal, state, and city agencies, as well as the private sector. The Council would report directly to the White House, charged with eliminating the red tape in implementing projects, as well as developing criteria and accountability measures that will guarantee that America meets its infrastructure goals, from energy independence to reduced carbon emissions to increased mobility.


About America 2050
America 2050 is a national initiative to develop an infrastructure plan for the United States that will position America for equitable, sustainable and prosperous economic growth. We are developing strategies that anticipate the challenges of rapid population growth, climate change, mobility, and ensuring national prosperity in a changing global economy.
 
A major focus of America 2050 is the emergence of megaregions - large networks of metropolitan areas, where most of America's growth by mid-century will take place - and how to organize infrastructure investments, environmental protection, and economic opportunities for all at this new scale.
 
America 2050 includes a network of partners in megaregions across the country developing long-range strategies for sustainable growth and prosperity. A list of America 2050 partners is available on the America 2050 website at www.America2050.org.


America 2050 Update
Edited by Petra Todorovich
Director, America 2050
Contact: Petra@rpa.org
212-253-2727 x322