HUDSON VALLEY PATTERN FOR PROGRESS
In the past few months, the tragic gas explosion in Harlem and Vice President Biden’s description of LaGuardia Airport as a “third world airport” made national news. In the Hudson Valley, the massive rebuilding of the Tappan Zee Bridge and a proposed $153 million private desalination plant have made headlines. The common topic: Infrastructure. Today, the world demands solid and dependable underpinnings to the activities of daily life. Infrastructure means livelihoods—think of the 14.2 million workers employed nationally in the sector (Brookings, 2014). It means survival, especially in terms of critical resources such as water and roads. And it means a set of unprecedented challenges, at all levels.
In the Hudson Valley, hurricanes Irene, Lee, and Sandy tested the region’s infrastructure and identified major gaps in our resiliency to these types of disasters. According to the National Climate Assessment, climate change does already and will continue to affect our transportation, water, wastewater and other infrastructure (White House, 2014).
The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the nation’s infrastructure a D+ in 2013, an upgrade from a D in 2012 (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2013). The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) notes that 70% of manufacturers believe that American infrastructure is in poor or fair shape and needs improvement. Surprisingly, 61% of NAM members would be willing to pay more taxes, fees, and tolls if certain that revenues would go to specific infrastructure improvements (NAM, 2013).
The United States (2.6%) has fallen behind China (8.5%), Japan (5.0%), South Korea (3.9%), Canada (3.9%), and others in the percentage of our GDP spent on infrastructure (McKinsey and Company, 2013). The amount spent on infrastructure in the United States has dropped precipitously in the last decade with the majority of that decrease on the state and local side. Total government spending on infrastructure nationally has dropped 25% between 2002 and 2013. As citizens we expect our infrastructure to work and to work well. When it works, people barely notice it. But when it doesn’t, it affects us all.
Pattern Surveys the Region
In light of the decline in the condition of infrastructure, concerns of municipal officials, and limited government financial resources, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress has chosen to research and evaluate the state of the Hudson Valley’s infrastructure: not the big national headline projects, but the every day water, sewer and road systems, or infrastructure with a “little i”. A survey conducted in late 2013 to early 2014 is the start of that work.
This survey provides a gauge of current sentiments about infrastructure in the Hudson Valley. Pattern surveyed all mayors and supervisors in the nine-county region comprised of Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.
The Pattern survey contained 27 questions with a 52.9% response rate far exceeding standard survey response rates. Ultimately, 126 out of 238 municipalities responded. Response rate by county varied from a high in Ulster County of 80% to a low in Rockland County of 29%. Given the opportunity to remain anonymous, 28% of respondents requested anonymity.
The survey focused on water, sewer and transportation infrastructure and its management; however, the survey also asked about other types of infrastructure such as natural gas, broadband and cellular service.
In addition to the survey, Pattern gathered data from outside sources including the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis as well as other sources.
About Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress
Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress is a not-for-profit policy, planning, advocacy and research organization whose mission is to promote regional, balanced and sustainable solutions that enhance the growth and vitality of the Hudson Valley.