Introduction – Bringing us all together
As part of the Blueprint 2025 initiative focused on developing a roadmap for the U.S. presidential administration that will take office on January 20, 2017, CG/LA Infrastructure has just completed a survey of just over 120 infrastructure professionals, from both the public and private sectors, across the United States. The purpose of the survey was to identify how the professional U.S. infrastructure community – across all sectors, geographies and disciplines – views the current state of U.S. infrastructure. Survey respondents represented each region of the country and each of fifteen economic sectors, with the greatest number from engineering and construction, followed by public sector.
Comments were particularly useful – in total there were hundreds of detailed comments.
The survey consisted of seven questions and included the option for adding a free response comment on each. Comment rates on questions were as high as 33% and many comments focused on specific solutions to infrastructure investment problems, adding depth and unique insight to the responses. The survey results form a narrative, with the early sections providing a diagnosis of how industry professionals view the U.S. infrastructure sector in terms of economic importance and overall health as indicated by factors such as levels of investment and depth of the project pipeline.
The latter sections turn the focus to development of solutions, highlighting respondents’ perceptions of ten draft recommendations included in the survey questionnaire and presenting a full set of eighteen recommendations currently being discussed and developed by Blueprint 2025 participants.
The graph on the right provides basic context for the survey. US economic growth is anemic, and increasingly so, averaging less than 2% year since 2008 – and since 2000 well below the 3.5% average from 1945 to 2000. The result is a dramatic leveling off of per capita income growth in the country. Blueprint 2025 is designed to address that issue.
In terms of the survey, several results stand out. As a group, the respondents agreed that the sector faces a range of broad challenges, from funding to project development. For example, in terms of the current presidential campaign cycle, 67% if respondents said they were dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied, with the way that infrastructure issues are being addressed.
These results define our well-known infrastructure investment problem – one that has been analyzed and discussed for years. Comments from the survey point to a solution: “The pipeline [of projects] is not even close to what it needs to be. The extreme lack of vision, capability and confidence means most of our pipeline is based on only pain points, not the true needs of a vibrant 21st century smart, sustainable and competitive economy.”
The Blueprint 2025 process has created a solution – 10 key themes, and 18 specific recommendations – designed to double our level of infrastructure investment, and nearly double our per capita income by 2025. We are moving to build a robust national coalition to support this effort. Note that, among the ten recommendations presented to respondents, the one receiving the highest vote total regards the establishment of a long-term vision for infrastructure. This is absolutely critical and is clearly the piece missing from our national dialogue – clear to infrastructure professionals, but not to the political class.
We’ve summarized these results in the graph on the left. Note that in terms of vision, we highlight the Blueprint 2025 theme of “bringing us all together” – not just in terms of distance, but in terms of productivity and opportunity.
Maybe the critical issue – and perhaps the reason we are so impressed with the comments that you will read in the following pages – is that around what might be called the Why of Infrastructure, we need to focus much more on users. Our current model sees users all too often as roadblocks and ‘nimby-ites at worst. In fact, technology has given the user a tremendous amount of power in building modern infrastructure projects and in building a modern infrastructure initiative; their input should set the priorities. There is no reason why they can’t be key investors in projects and they are – or at least should be – active creators of solutions on projects (everything from location, to technical problem-solving, to the services in and around public infrastructure. It’s a new infrastructure world. To catalyze and accelerate this policy process, Blueprint 2025 participants are both developing solutions and forming a Shadow National Infrastructure Council to ‘keep score’ in terms of solutions to critical problems. Join us!
About CG/LA Infrastructure
Infrastructure is a catalyst for progress and we believe that the right policies and projects create important opportunities for all. Our mission is to support the doubling of global infrastructure investment by 2020 and ensure that collectively, we receive the maximum benefit from that investment.