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By James Hurley
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, The Ionian
The development of a sustainable infrastructure program is at the heart of America's sense of pride, security and future. In short, infrastructure is the tool that will enable America to progress into the 21st century and continue to be a global leader. Before continuing I think that it is wise to define my terms. When I suggest infrastructure, I am really referencing transportation infrastructure in its broadest sense. The roads we drive on, the airports we fly into and out of regularly, the bridges we cross daily and the Metro-North rail line we all catch to Grand Central are all examples of the transportation infrastructure that I am referencing. The state of that infrastructure, in this country at least, is in a very critical condition.
Although I may not claim to be an expert on infrastructure, I do have some background that would prove beneficial to this conversation. Last year I was fortunate enough to attend the Iona College organized, Terex sponsored Infrastructure conference in Washington, D.C. (the third one will be in New Rochelle later this year). In addition, last semester I dutifully attended, Wednesday evening classes with Professor Mary Hagerty on national infrastructure from a public policy perspective. I am writing this column shortly after leaving Union Station in Washington, D.C. on the Northeast Regional service of Amtrak. The train was delayed just shy of 30 minutes, is unbearably hot, will take over four hours to arrive in downtown New Rochelle and cost more money than I am willing to admit. The crisis has never been so clear to me.
As a nation we need to take pride in our systems. When was the last time we took pride in a 100 percent on time arrival status? Please raise your hand if you take pride in any of the NY area airports. I thought as much. Looking at other countries around the developed world one cannot help but to notice their sense of pride in infrastructure achievements. In the Far East you can take a train from Shanghai International Airport to downtown Shanghai in as little as 13 minutes—it's about a 35 mile stretch. Furthermore, look at the infrastructure miracle just over the pond; the Chunnel is able to connect the cities of London and Paris by its hourly EuroStar service. Now, we all know of the problems that have been associated with most of these modes of transportation in recent months, but their sustainability and operation continues to be strong—and prices reasonable.
For another example, one needs to look no further than our own borders. In the 1960s under the Eisenhower administration the Federal Transportation Act literally employed tens of thousands of people and created the interstate system we still use today. This notion of a federal highway system, which is currently crumbling is also a security issue. In order to move troops and machinery domestically in an appropriate time frame a strong network of roadways is essential. Eisenhower learned this from the Germans when he was serving in WWII and noticed how efficient the autoban was in transporting goods, machines and people.
Now, yes, I do understand that we already have a interstate highway system, but it is functionally obsolete. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our surface transportation infrastructure—trains, roadways, and alike—a grade of D in their most recent report card. The future of America depends on national infrastructure. The Obama administration should learn from the lessons of the past and apply them to the future. Infrastructure development, creates jobs in countless sectors and creates a stronger more secure America.
Transportation infrastructure as a whole needs to be a priority of the government, not only development, but maintenance. It will create a strong, unified and accessible nation that will not be dependent on the car but rather on intermodal forms of transportation. Well, I just left Baltimore, so I think I am going to pop a movie in my computer and call it a day—after all I have a long train ride ahead.
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