This interview is part of Infrastructure Week 2014.
Infrastructure Week is a week of talks, round-table events, and Q & A sessions to focus on infrastructure and explore new approaches being developed nationwide to modernize aging infrastructure. The event was created in 2013 by Brookings Institution, Building America’s Future Educational Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, 1776, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Organization for International Investment, and the Value of Water Coalition. Click here to see the full calendar of events.
Robert Puentes is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program where he also directs the program’s Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative. The Initiative was established to address the pressing transportation and infrastructure challenges facing cities and suburbs in the United States and abroad.
Robert’s work focuses on the broad array of policies and issues related to metropolitan growth and development including transportation and infrastructure, urban planning, growth management, suburban issues, and smart cities.
Prior to joining Brookings, Robert was the director of infrastructure programs at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Virginia where he served on the Alumni Advisory Board, and is an affiliated professor with Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.
Infra Awareness is Growing
I think the understanding of infrastructure is fundamental in many places now. The challenge we have across the board is how to get it done: what are the funding tools to do things; what are the regulatory reforms that have to happen, from a policy perspective; what are the capacity issues that exist now to think through some of these difficult complex deals.
States and Cities are the Real Innovators
There’s no doubt that the paralysis in Washington is real and pervasive. I think we overemphasize, though, the federal role in a lot of this…I think, in fact, the federal paralysis is making states, cities, metropolitan areas experiment with a whole host of different things in order to get projects done.
High-Speed Rail in the USA: Complicated, but Possible
The model we should take from other countries is to get one piece running. Get one piece up, have it running, demonstrate that it works and then you iterate from there…you’ve got to start slow and it’s got to be done right. Once that happens I do believe that Americans will be clamoring for these kinds of investments.
Americans Aren’t in Love with Cars, the Government is in Love with Car Subsidies
I don’t think that…the love affair with cars is as pervasive as it’s made out to be. People will do whatever they have to do to get wherever they have to go…Now, it’s certainly true that we have subsidized automobile travel to a tremendous degree for a very long time…and so that’s made it very cheap and inexpensive and very convenient for folks to drive.