"Building infrastructure is our most powerful tool to create jobs and improve the playing field for all businesses." - Representative Conor Lamb [PA-17] (June, 2020)
In its most recent report, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the country’s overall infrastructure a grade of C- citing the poor condition of roads, bridges, and public transit systems. Further research suggests that more than 40% of America’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and on average, 30% of trips taken on them run into severe or extreme congestion. Meanwhile half of all bridges in the country are over 50 years old and 7.5% of them are structurally deficient. Public Transit on the other hand is inaccessible for 40% of Americans and is facing a funding backlog projected to reach over $270 billion through 2029, a deficit which will have ripple effects on everything from growth to reliability.
In a country where, according to census data, semi-trailer trucks transport 71% of the value of all goods shipped in the United States, where 80% of Americans commute by car, and where 11% of workers in the biggest metro areas rely on public transit, the poor state of infrastructure is, according to think tanks from across the political spectrum, a drain on the economy and on mental health. It hamstrings future GDP growth by discouraging investment and it has global consequences for the climate. The ASCE for example estimates that the total cost of inaction on infrastructure (not only transit) will surpass $10 trillion by 2039. Every year the combined cost of congestion and delays across traffic, public transit, and air travel reaches into the tens of billions of dollars. Meanwhile Cedar Sinai Medical Center reports that more time spent commuting has negative impacts on mental and physical health- impacts that carry over to job satisfaction and performance. Finally, the Department of Transportation reports that the state of public transit pushes more people into greenhouse gas emitting cars, driving up congestion and accelerating climate change.
In order to address these issues, President Biden recently signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Yet while this congressional investment is a historic one, it runs into a challenge that has plagued infrastructure in the United States for decades and one that has been covered extensively by think tanks across the political spectrum. Namely that the overwhelming majority of infrastructure is owned and operated by states, counties, and cities while funding for major projects comes from the Federal Government. Federal funding that, like the recent infrastructure bill, is authorized in fixed amounts for fixed periods of time. This means that without sustainable long-term funding solutions, the periods between waves of appropriations are characterized by inadequate funding and infrequent maintenance. Because so much infrastructure is locally owned and operated, many have argued that local authorities, not the Federal government, are best poised to fund, design, and implement the kinds of transit improvements that would make the biggest impacts in their communities. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities for example argued that states should restructure their tax policies to raise more money for infrastructure, while the Cato Institute suggested a greater role for the private sector in reaching the same goals. There are also the issues of wasteful spending and idiosyncratic riders to major pieces of legislation, which are commonly raised with Federal programs, and which critics argue can harm both passage of the legislation as well as its effective implementation.
This symposium will provide a space for policymakers, industry representatives, consultants, and academics to discuss options for targeting, prioritizing, and financing infrastructure projects across the United States to meet the needs of the citizens and the economy, both now and in the future.
Evaluate President Biden’s infrastructure legislation and discuss its projected impact across all areas of transportation infrastructure.
Assess current financing availability in light of projected demands on infrastructure upkeep and expansion, and identify the kinds of projects most likely to face funding shortfalls.
Weigh the pros and cons of state-led vs Federal-led infrastructure finance and discuss where each is more appropriate using concrete examples.
Discuss strategies to improve consistency of infrastructure funding and ways to ensure that different localities have access to the specific funding they need to make the investments that would give the biggest return for their communities.
Identify and share examples of low-cost changes to road safety and traffic patterns that cities, towns, and even counties can implement to improve the efficiency of transit infrastructure.
Assess the feasibility and cost:benefit ratio (human and economic) of expanding public transit infrastructure in sprawling population centers vs. undertaking alternative measures to decrease congestion while improving mobility.
Discuss the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on public transit and air travel, and identify ways to secure those aspects of transport infrastructure against future shocks.
Investigate ways to enhance efficiency and timeliness at American airports, and ways to allocate the increased revenue towards sustaining those improvements.
Transportation Department Leadership
Transportation Policy Officers
Highway Administration Officials
Federal Aviation Administration Officials
Airport Ownership Company Representatives
Private Construction Company Representatives
Green Infrastructure Advocates
Justice-Based Social Policy Experts
Urban Planning Specialists
Transportation Safety Analysts
State Budgetary Committee Members
Grant Office Directors
Directors of Sustainability
Climate Change Consultants
Resilience and Sustainability Advisors/Managers
Environmental Compliance Officers
Environmental Monitoring Analysts
Energy Policy Analysts
Sustainable Development Officers
Air Quality Specialists
Climate Data Managers/Leads
Climate Data Policy Managers
Climate Business Managers
Climate Change Outreach Leads
Clean Energy Ambassadors
Renewable Energy Specialists/Consultants
Land Use Planners
Natural Resources Specialists
Private Sector Businesses
Researchers and Academics
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