Governor: US infrastructure begs investment

The Governor of Pennsylvania, Edward Rendell, calls for more public-private partnerships amid warnings that American infrastructure is ‘crumbling’ and needs more than $1.6tr in improvements.

Private investors were urged to increase their spending on US public infrastructure amid warnings the US is being “killed” economically by its unwillingness to boost investment in the sector, according to Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell.

“American infrastructure is crumbling … This is a national battle and it’s one I think we must win,” he said

Speaking at the Terrapinn Investing in Infrastructure Assets conference in New York yesterday, he said the country must “win” the battle to boost spending on public infrastructure or face losing economic ground to emerging markets such as India and China.

“We are getting killed on the economy, we are getting killed in terms of public safety, we are obviously losing quality of life and the environment suffers because we are unwilling to invest. We suffer as a country,” he said.

American infrastructure is crumbling.

Edward Rendell

Rendell, who has formed an infrastructure coalition with New York and California governors Michael Bloomberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger calling for more federal investment, faced fierce opposition to his call for the Pennsylvania Turnpike to be leased to a private operator last year. The plan was later dropped owing to the public outcry with a compromise bill now making its way through the state legislature aimed at increasing tolls on the turnpike and introducing tolls on another busy thoroughfare, Interstate 80.

Rendell told delegates at the conference $1.6 trillion was needed just to upgrade existing US infrastructure to high standards, yet only 25 percent of all spending on public assets came from the federal level.

As a percentage of GDP, last year the US spent 2.5 percent of GDP on public infrastructure compared to sub-Saharan Africa’s 4.7 percent, India’s eight percent, China’s 9 percent and Spain’s 10 percent.

Calling in particular for high-quality, high-speed rail links into cities, Rendell added that with rising fuel bills:  “Americans are ready to ride. This is the time.”