Credit: Andy Tucker

Funding studies aimed at federal lawmakers conclude that assets like U.S. Route 10 are vital to remaining a viable competitor in the global marketplace.

Whatever 2012 budget Congress approves, dwindling federal allocations continue to move state and local governments to put the brakes on new construction and expansion and focus on maintaining their existing assets. Several organizations are warning national lawmakers against neglecting roads and other critical infrastructure.

A report issued by Building America's Future, a bipartisan group of elected officials, concludes that inefficient infrastructure increases dependence on fossil fuels imports and drains household budgets. Falling Apart and Falling Behind stresses that long-term economic health depends on a long-term infrastructure strategy, accountability, and innovation in awarding projects, and finding funding options beyond the U.S. Treasury.

Compiled by from the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, Infrastructure 2011: A Strategic Priority says the U.S. can't neglect transportation infrastructure if it wants to remain competitive with countries in Asia and Europe, many of which continue to build infrastructure despite the recession. “We need to refocus our priorities: streamline procurement, attract private capital more efficiently, strategically invest in projects with national merit, and regain our stature as a global competitor,” says Howard Roth, Ernst & Young's global real estate leader.

Issued jointly by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, Repair Priorities shows that maintenance saves money in the long run, and that there's some catching up to do.

“To bring their roads into good condition and maintain them that way, states would collectively have to spend $43 billion every year for the next 20 years -- more than they currently spend on all repair, preservation, and new capacity combined,” says Roger Millar, Smart Growth America's director of land use and transportation policy. “States already have drifted too far from regular preservation and repair and, in so doing, have created a deficit that's going to take decades to reverse.”

Falling behind on spending

According to a bipartisan analysis, the United States lags behind most other developed countries in percentage of GDP spent on transportation infrastructure.