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  • Kayoumars Bakhtar

THE 2018 INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK CAME AND WENT BUT …...

The 6th annual National Infrastructure Week took place from May 14-21, 2018. This national week of events; media coverage; and education and issue advocacy united hundreds of communities and organizations around one theme: The future won't wait. Neither can we. It's TimeToBuild. Together, this week and into the future, we are elevating the essential message that the condition and quality of our nation's infrastructure has profound impacts on America's economy, society, security and future.


Despite the well-organized publicity, the event received mixed reactions from the media. While many questioned the rationality for having another Infrastructure Week, some were more optimistic. David Schaper responding to Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered said: “Some (participants) are saying - some of the organizers in particular say that at least it's bringing some attention to the issue and to some of the events that they have going on. In fact, one of the organizers I talked to said that the more that this Infrastructure Week joke goes around, the more people signed up to participate in some of the real Infrastructure Week events, the more groups that got engaged to participate elsewhere around the country, not just here in Washington, D.C. So, they do feel like there's a little bit more momentum behind the issue to some degree, but some also worry that the joke kind of lessens the urgency to address real infrastructure need.” (All Things Considered, NPR, May 15, 2018) Alongside of all the presentations, debates and eloquent speeches of the week; some, the result of innovative thinking outside the box, others the recycled ideas of the past; the larger question of What is America’s Infrastructure Strategic Vision remained unanswered. In many countries of the world, the challenge of developing stable long-term direction road-map for the nation’s infrastructure whilst retaining the flexibility to deal with uncertainty over the horizons is a challenge for the government. However, Robert Puentes and Bruce Katz of Brookings Institution argue that the real crisis is that we’re fixing infrastructure problems the wrong way. “People believe the federal government will come to the rescue through a National Infrastructure Bank, or boost spending through an increase in the gas tax. But the federal government essentially can’t and won’t fix our national infrastructure. Because of major initiatives such as the New Deal, the Interstate Highway Program, and the recent stimulus package, the federal role in infrastructure is overemphasized. Even in infrastructure sectors like transportation and water, the federal share of total spending historically hovers only around 27 percent. And for other sectors such as freight rail, telecommunications, and clean energy, the federal role in funding and finance is actually quite limited.” (Robert Puentes and Bruce Katz To Fix America’s Infrastructure Washington Needs to Get Out of the Way, Brookings, May 12, 2014) On May 16, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution hosted a series of presentations and discussion sessions about rethinking America’s infrastructure system. At this gathering, Brookings Vice President and Founding Director, Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Bruce Katz, presented several innovative perspectives, including the following: “…. you need to invest for the future and frankly the entire system is a public/private exercise in the US and it is federalist in design and execution. We are not a country like many of our competitors that just have a central government that basically has a national plan and then does the bulk of the investment. We are a Federal Republic and we are public/private enterprise. “ The next discussion will be devoted to America’s National Infrastructure Strategic Vision. Please stay-tuned.

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