Management & Operations

U.S. lags in urban infrastructure

Posted on July 13, 2007

The relatively low U.S. investment in virtually all areas of mobility-related infrastructure is an “emerging crisis” according to a report co-published by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Ernst & Young. The report, Infrastructure 2007: A Global Perspective, offers a comprehensive look at the status of current and planned infrastructure investment worldwide. It was released in May at ULI’s Spring Council Forum in Chicago and considers airports, public transit, railway systems, roads and bridges. The varied attitudes and approaches toward infrastructure investment are reflected in different data provided in the report. For example, Japan currently has about 1,200 miles of high-speed rail, with plans to build about 180 more miles by 2020; China plans to build more than 1,500 miles of high-speed rail by 2020; and the U.S. has about 180 miles of high-speed rail, but is currently building none. Numerous worldwide trends and issues are discussed in the report, including:

  • Australia, the United Kingdom, other countries in Western Europe and Canada being far ahead of the U.S. in using private financing structures to fund improvements. Issues and trends specific to the U.S.:
  • In America, a “yawning” budget gap swallows initiatives to fund maintenance. Prevalent sprawl, poor planning and car dependence pose ever greater challenges in meeting future transit needs.
  • Reluctance to raise the federal gas tax threatens the viability of the Highway Trust Fund, now on course for insolvency by 2009.
  • Most new U.S. highways will be constructed as toll roads; states will finance them through bond issues and private concessions. The full report is available on ULI’s Website at
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