Miller Center

National Discussion and Debate Series
About Infrastructure

America's infrastructure is in grave disrepair. Analysts have determined that one-third of the nation's roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and the Federal Highway Administration recently estimated that one out of every four bridges is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Every infrastructure sector, from rail, air and seaways, to water supply, sewage and irrigation, to energy pipelines and the electric grid, are in need of significant capital. The American Society of Civil Engineers says it will take an investment of $1.6 trillion over the next five years – double the current outlay – just to bring the nation's infrastructure to acceptable levels. This figure even excludes innovative projects like high-speed railways, GPS integration, and broadband expansion.

What is yet to be determined is who should finance these improvements to the national infrastructure, and how. More importantly, there are a variety of disparate views on what the federal government should subsidize and how this vision should be shaped by other national concerns. This discussion examines a simple yet important question: What is the right way to achieve a sound infrastructure?

The discussion will consider the ends to be served by infrastructure, including social equity, access to opportunity, and expansion of mobility and access. It will examine how national priorities – energy security, global warming, sustainability, the rising cost of transportation, and America's future competitiveness in the global economy – should effect planning and financing. Who determines the overall plan will be assessed, as well as ways to increase the efficiency of the planning, financing, and implementation process. Participants will also discuss the best financing options available to cover the projected costs.