US needs help to fix infrastructure
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.