Entries in Infrastructure (3)


Road Warriors: Mayors Bringing Back Our Roads

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "See the USA in Your Chevrolet" the iconic 1956 musical sales pitch went, beckoning us to the great American road and heralding in a new chapter in the 20th century.

Those words, that call, were built on the Eisenhower expansion program, which created the best and biggest highways and roads in the world, and came to symbolize America's postwar vitality and promise -- 4 million miles of freedom bringing Americans from front porches to drive-ins to national parks.

But in the decades since the highway-building heyday, America's once celebrated roads are now ranked 20th -- behind Cyprus' and Malaysia's.

Today, one-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to Building America's Future Educational Fund, a bipartisan organization of politicians dedicated to investing in infrastructure. The rundown roads contribute to half of all auto accidents because of things like narrow shoulders and frayed asphalt.

But enter a group of road warriors, the nation's mayors, shaking up Congress, saying, let's fix those potholes and clogged highways.

ABC News spoke with Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Scott Smith of Mesa, Ariz., about the steps they're taking to bring America back.

"If they pass the surface transportation bill and America Fast Forward, it will allow us to accelerate the building of that 30-year project in a 10-year period of time, creating 166,000 jobs," Villaraigosa said. "These are the kinds of innovative things that the Congress has an opportunity to do that they haven't done up to now. ... Their failure to address the No. 1 issue in America, the jobs issue, is akin to the captain of the Concordia jumping off the ship before the passengers had been rescued. This Congress needs to get back on that ship and do their job."

While the mayors would like the support of Capitol Hill, they aren't waiting to take action. Even in an economic downturn these mayors have managed to convince their constituents to raise revenue to build better roads and create jobs.

Smith passed a quarter of a penny sales tax in Mesa. Villaraigosa passed a similar tax in Los Angeles.

The mayors are also using public-private partnerships to get results and control costs. In Philadelphia, more children are able to ice skate because of a partnership between the city and Flyers owner Ed Snider.

"We have five ice rinks in the city that we operate. Unfortunately, I had to announce that in the next budget year, we would only be able to operate two of those five," Nutter told ABC News. "Ed Snider partnered with the city of Philadelphia, agreed to operate the other three that we were not going to be able to open. And ultimately, signed a lease with us to now operate all five."

These mayors say investing in the infrastructure of cities is the secret to jump-starting the economy.

"Ninety percent of the country's GDP happens in cities and metro areas," Nutter said. "If you have a company where 90 percent of your output was coming from one place, you wouldn't cut that area, you'd invest. You'd invest in research and innovation. You'd put more resources in that particular area."

It's a secret Villaraigosa said the rest of the world is acting on, and he argues it's about time America did too.

"If you go to China, Japan and Korea ... you don't have to tell any of those countries that modernizing their airports, building their ports and their roads are what you have to do if you want to compete around the world."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bringing America Back: Are Infrastructure Jobs Being Shipped to China?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure is a growing priority, with President Obama highlighting construction jobs as part of his $447 billion jobs plan.

The president visited the "functionally obsolete" Brent Spence Bridge in Ohio Thursday and called on lawmakers to do their part in fixing America's infrastructure.

"Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge," he said in a speech. "Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work."

In New York there is a $400 million renovation project on the Alexander Hamilton Bridge.

In California, there is a $7.2 billion project to rebuild the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland.

In Alaska, there is a proposal for a $190 million bridge project.

These projects sound like steps in the right direction, but much of the work is going to Chinese government-owned firms.

"When we subsidize jobs in China, we're not creating any wealth in the United States," said Scott Paul, executive director for the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

The renovation of the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in New York is being overseen by China Construction America, a subsidiary of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation. The company uses mostly U.S. labor, but many coveted skill jobs such as engineering and design work are Chinese. The profits will also go overseas.

In Alaska, they are set to spend millions on foreign materials for the Tanana River Bridge Crossing and would largely fabricate the bridge overseas. Iron union workers took to the airwaves to express their outrage in seeing jobs go abroad.

"This is not the time to send more jobs to China," said the Alaska Iron Workers in a radio advertisement. "Our tax dollars will provide hundreds of jobs there, not at home."

U.S. law does require major infrastructure projects to give American companies preferential treatment under Buy America, but companies can opt out and choose a foreign company if there is a significant cost differential. In the Alaska case, officials contend that even with laws that favor domestic companies, the difference in cost was still too high.

The state of California rejected federal funding for a major portion of the Bay Bridge in order to go with a Chinese company that offered the lowest bid. The move cost Americans almost 3,000 jobs -- jobs that cost the struggling California economy millions of dollars in wages, taxes and potential consumer spending.

An official from the California Department of Transportation defended the decision to go with a Chinese company, saying that most of the bridge is being made in America, and that U.S. companies could not have done the work that was contracted abroad on time.

U.S. firms said that, had they been given enough time, they could have put together a successful bid. They added that Chinese firms have the advantage of being state-subsidized. And they warned that hiring abroad today, for any reason, will hurt the country tomorrow.

"Even though we may be saving a couple of pennies now," said Paul, of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, "the cost to our country down the road is going to outweigh that, and we're short changing the future."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Would Obama's Infrastructure Plan Create Jobs Now?

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama isn’t likely to use the term “shovel-ready” in his jobs speech Thursday night, but he is expected to call for billions in new government spending for infrastructure projects he believes will lead to immediate hiring.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding.  We’ve got private companies with the equipment and the manpower to do the building,” Obama told a crowd Monday in Detroit.  “We’ve got more than one million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty right now.”

Sources knowledgeable about the administration proposals say Obama might seek to fast-track up to $50 billion in infrastructure spending in the next year as part of a broader transportation package -- an idea he first proposed a year ago but failed to gain traction.

The White House has not provided details of the plan or estimates for job creation, but economists on both ends of the political spectrum say infrastructure improvements might not make much of a splash in the short-term.

“It’s not good stimulus,” said Alice Rivlin, a Democratic member of the president’s Debt Commission and former head of the Office of Management and Budget.

“It doesn’t come online fast enough.  If you’re really talking about things that will create jobs quickly, you need to rely on either direct government hiring in the manner of things done in the Great Depression, or demand side things that will get more money spent by wage earners,” she said.

Alan Viard, an economist with the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said infrastructure spending can be “reasonably powerful” but cautioned additional funding might not be the most effective way to spend the taxpayers’ dime.

“I think we need to be cautious how much we expect any of these packages to do, regardless of who’s proposing them,” Viard said.  ”I think the jury is out on the question of how much demand stimulus can help when you have one of these long recessions following a financial crisis.”

John Horsely, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, says a concentrated infusion of $50 billion now could lead to the employment of hundreds of thousands.

“The president wants to jump-start the economy and create jobs, and so if he could manage to get the authority to spend $50 billion all in one year, you would probably have a much higher number of jobs created, if it all happened in one year,” Horsely said.

Republicans have signaled they are not willing to support additional spending that might add to the deficit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio