China invests 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure; the United States, a paltry 3 percent. Western Europe is cutting greenhouse gas commissions as it links rail and road systems for moving people and freight efficiently. Canada and Australia also are trying to contend with aging systems and have leaped beyond the U.S. in doing so.
The Urban Land Institute and Ernst and Young have tracked infrastructure investment trends in the United States, among its global peers and in developing countries for five years. So it's not news that the U.S. has long been a laggard when it comes to looking after roads, bridges, transportation networks and systems for treating, delivering and storing water, ULI and E&Y note in their latest report.
What's striking about the study released this week are its details on how far the U.S. has fallen behind and the report's strongly worded criticism.
"In contrast with its global competition, the United States is lurching along a problematic course -- potentially losing additional ground," said the report, "Infrastructure 2011: A Strategic Priority," the fifth in a series of annual studies.
Furthermore, the report said:
"After more than 30 years of conspicuously underfunding infrastructure and faced with large budget deficits, increasing numbers of national and local leaders have come to recognize and discuss how to deal with evident problems. But a politically fractured government has mustered little appetite to confront the daunting challenges, which include finding an estimated $2 trillion just to rebuild deteriorating networks ...
"Although President Obama ranks infrastructure as one of his administration's top three "win the future" initiatives (together with education and innovation), the chances for setting and executing national priorities appear to be foundering in partisan debate over tax burdens and how to cut exploding government debt ... The overriding stumbling block to generating support for rebuilding the country's infrastructure remains simple public resistance to paying more for these systems ... Although informed voters have passed bond issues and even some sales tax increases for new projects, Congress perennially refuses to raise the federal gasoline tax or allow states to put new tolls on interstate highways, which could help ramp up funding for mass transit alternatives and repair existing highways and bridges."