Tech Center Hosts-American Infrastructure At A Crossroads
On Tuesday August 10, 2010 TechQuest and the Building America's Future (BAF) organizations hosted the American Infrastructure at a Crossroads conference at the Central Pennsylvania College's Conference Center located in Summerdale, PA.
The discussion focused on the impacts on what the future of critical infrastructure means to the nation’s state and local governments. The conference established that although differences exist between Democrats and Republicans, politicians and Americans in general agree that improving our infrastructure is vital to our economy and quality of life. Likened to a body’s skeleton, infrastructure is the framework that every important entity of our society is built upon. This essentially mean we must improve America’s roads and bridges, schools, train systems, energy grids, drinking water, sewer systems, communication systems and on and on.
Conference developers contend that investment in American infrastructure faces an evasive and indecisive political opponent. Urgent action is necessary to put America’s infrastructure back on track and become faster and more affordable. The program sited priorities for improving infrastructure, expounding that America spends 2.5 % of gross domestic product on infrastructure, while China spends 9%, Europe spends 5% and India is spending 4.6%. Conference experts shared that our public is insistent that more accountability and transparency should exist for how tax dollars are spent.
PA Governor, Edward Rendell lead the event which was hosted by a distinguished discussion panel including:
- Jon Corzine, Chairman and CEO, MF Global Holdings
- former US Senator, Governor of New Jersey;
- Dick Gephardt, President and CEO, Gephardt Government Affairs,
- former House Democratic Leader;
- Andrew Moore, Director, Google Pittsburgh; and
- Terry O’Sullivan, General President, LIUNA.
Governor Rendell shared his chaired organization’s (Building America’s Future) position on expanding investment in America’s infrastructure and spoke to the need to develop an infrastructure bank and use of federal stimulus funding. Afterwards, US Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood addressed the attendees via satellite TV.
Secretary LaHood expressed his support of the Obama Administration and efforts such as a distractive driving bill-(outlawing cell phone use/texting while driving), good and affordable housing and better schools. He emphasized the need to develop our high speed transportation systems nationally. He is championing a 500 billion dollar bill to fund a national high speed rail system and provide funding to cities for the same. These efforts can be accomplished with public and private monies. The Secretary shared proposals to develop transportation systems to move America forward. He targeted accomplishments for 80% of American cities to be connected with the system within 25 years. Finally, the Secretary entertained questions from attendees.
Governor Rendell provided oratory on why America must have a change of course with its infrastructure. He sited poor bridges and sewer systems as harmful to our future economy, showing reports and indicators for traffic nationally increased 150% from 1980, while expansions for roads and highways increased only 15%. He said we need better and smarter functional ways move people. He supports the ideal for a national infrastructure bank. He called for needed changes to how states receive transportation funding, proposing the development of a merit based system. He shared his thoughts and ideals on how national high speed railway could be accomplished and paralleled the monies now being spent in the Afghanistan War. The Governor also expressed that monies could be saved in Pennsylvania by converting state vehicles to natural gas usage.
A panel discussion moderated by Governor Rendell ensued to address salient questions regarding infrastructure. The Governor asked “How will the infrastructure effort be funded”. Mr. Gephardt responded- that we can not have a modern society without modern infrastructure. It is the heart of issues for jobs and our economy”. Mr. Corzine encouraged capital budgeting to logically layout how and where monies are spent to substantiating the budget process with transparent policies. Mr. Moore and Mr. O’Sullivan also offered their thoughts and ideals. The Governor asked the panel to “expand on infrastructure and the impacts of internet technology”. Mr. Moore responded, stating that developing better fiber communications is paramount and will be the backbone of the 21st century business endeavors. Finally, the Governor asked the panel to address “what does America need to do to attract private funding for infrastructure projects”. Mr. Corzine encouraged public/private partnerships. He stated that private investors and partnerships will not develop if the risks are not shown to be manageable. Mr. Gephardt responded. He said that we need a national infrastructure bank and the use of capital budgeting as tools to advance America’s infrastructure. He said that America must invest in its own growth.
Governor Rendell and BAF advocate bipartisan work get America moving in the right direction. Commitment to join together, both in Congress as well as in our states to give the equal investment needed to deliver the infrastructure needed and deserved in America. They ask for all colleagues to stand for the passage of a reform transportation bill.
By Burnell Smith