US needs help to fix in­fras­truc­ture

China Daily (USA) - - G20 2016 CHINA - The au­thor is deputy ed­i­tor of China Daily USA. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Iwas rush­ing to catchmy train in Union Sta­tion in­Wash­ing­ton last Wed­nes­day when I tripped over an un­even part of the pave­ment and hurtmy an­kle, for­tu­nately only slightly. Ex­it­ing NewYork’s Penn Sta­tion a few hours later on Sev­enth Av­enue, I sawthe ex­act same thing hap­pen to a wo­man, only she looked to have come off worse than me as she had to lean on her com­pan­ion to walk.

A day later, a Chi­nese friend who was vis­it­ing the United States for the first time was shocked to see the poor state of the roads in­Man­hat­tan. The pot­holes in NewYork City far out­num­ber those in Shang­hai or Beijing, she said.

She could not un­der­stand why noth­ing had been done about them, es­pe­cially since the 71st ses­sion of the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly is to be held in the city in Septem­ber, with more than 100 world lead­ers at­tend­ing.

In China, the city would have seen a to­tal facelift like peo­ple sawa­head of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Shang­haiWorld Expo and the 2016 G20 Sum­mit in­Hangzhou.

NewYork City of­ten ranks top among world cities, but it also ranks sixth among the 10 US cities with the worst pot­hole prob­lems. Other cities in the top 10 in­clude Ok­la­homa City, NewOr­leans, Mil­wau­kee, Bridge­port (Con­necti­cut), Tucson, San Diego, San Jose, San Fran­cisco and Los Angeles, with LA be­ing the worst.

A re­port re­leased in Jan­uary by TRIP, aWash­ing­ton-based na­tional trans­porta­tion re­search group, rated 51 per­cent of the roads in the New York Ci­tymetro area in poor con­di­tion, 31 per­cent medi­ocre and only 5 per­cent and 13 per­cent in fair and good con­di­tion, re­spec­tively.

Na­tion­wide, pot­holes cost US driv­ers $6.4 bil­lion each year, ac­cord­ing to an­other re­port by the Amer­i­can Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion.

How­ever, the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Civil En­gi­neers says that fix­ing the US’ crum­bling in­fras­truc­ture would cost tax­pay­ers $2.7 tril­lion. The same group gave a D+ to the over­all US in­fras­truc­ture con­di­tions back in 2013 in a study it con­ducts ev­ery four years.

The sit­u­a­tion is so dire thatUS pres­i­den­tial can­di­datesHil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump have both pledged to spend more on in­fras­truc­ture to re­dress the pub­lic’s griev­ances. Clin­ton has pro­posed $275 bil­lion in newin­fras­truc­ture spend­ing over the next five years while Trump vowed to more than dou­ble that fig­ure. But no one knows if these politi­cians will be able to de­liver on these pledges.

Speak­ing onWed­nes­day about the US agenda at the G20 in Hangzhou, US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew stressed the need for struc­tural re­form. That, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral ex­perts I talked to, in­cludes in­vest­ment in in­fras­truc­ture. One sug­gested that China and US could find am­ple room for co­op­er­a­tion in this re­gard such as through joint fi­nanc­ing.

But the US re­mains guarded against Chi­nese in­vest­ment in US in­fras­truc­ture. Back in 2013, the US Cham­ber of Com­merce re­leased a re­port about the huge mu­tual ben­e­fits of al­low­ing Chi­nese in­vest­ment in US in­fras­truc­ture.

Thomas Petri, a for­mer Con­gress­man from Wis­con­sin, wrote in theMil­wau­kee-based pa­per Jour­nal Sen­tinel on June 28 about China’s im­pres­sive in­fras­truc­ture con­struc­tion he wit­nessed.

He lamented that de­spite the US be­ing the largest re­cip­i­ent of Chi­nese in­vest­ment in 2015, very fe­wof the in­vest­ments went to con­struc­tion and in­fras­truc­ture projects. Not­ing China has in­fras­truc­ture projects in over 70 coun­tries, Petri sighed at the high bar­ri­ers to for­eign in­fras­truc­ture in­vest­ment in the US, as re­flected in the Los Angeles-Las Vegas high-speed rail line, a Chi­nese in­vest­ment that fell through re­cently.

The US al­ways touts how open its mar­ket is. But in in­fras­truc­ture, it is block­ing and wast­ing huge win-win op­por­tu­ni­ties with China.

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