This week marks the seventh annual national Infrastructure Week, bringing together members of both political parties, the private and public sectors, business and labor, and the producers and users of infrastructure, to speak with a collective voice.
There are few issues that bring New Yorkers and Americans together more than modernizing our infrastructure system. In 2018, voters approved 77 percent of state and infrastructure ballot measures, continuing support for local infrastructure investment. Voters are clearly sending a message: infrastructure is important to them.
Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has demonstrated innovation in infrastructure development in the past few years. In addition, the Legislature recently approved the nation’s first congestion pricing program for a major city, in New York City to take effect in 2021. The state continues to roll out all-electronic tolling to reduce congestion and increase safety.
Rochester is typical of the nearly 20,000 cities across the nation, each with unique geography, historical milestones and cultural nuances. Their one common feature — which often defines the vitality of their economies and quality of life — is the responsiveness and resiliency of their infrastructure assets.
For New York, Superstorm Sandy was a turning point in terms of resiliency. Following Sandy’s devastation, New York State developed a community-based recovery and resiliency program that distributes federal dollars to help fund projects that allow municipalities to better withstand future storms by retrofitting critical infrastructure and transportation facilities to continue operations during severe weather, which will be more frequent due to climate change.
Our continuing challenge and opportunity is to ensure that everyone has access to mobility options, to clean and affordable water, to a secure electric grid and fast internet. These are things that connect and unite communities and are the keys to job opportunities, to the quality of life all New Yorkers and Americans expect.
In partnership with the private sector, we must take action to modernize our infrastructure, including:
- Raise revenue to attract investors and deliver projects that are needed to thrive.
- Modernize water treatment and delivery systems.
- Deploy new communications technologies with transformative implications for transportation, healthcare and other elements of our society.
- Integrate rideshare, bicycles, scooters and other alternative mobility solutions with public transit to ease congestion and solve “last mile” challenges for everyone.
These are all laudable efforts. But we have so much more that we can do.
We must identify a vision for our infrastructure system, along with a long-term sustainable funding plan that includes government and private sector investments. A new HNTB “America Thinks” national survey indicates that almost 8 in 10 believe that a national transportation policy is critically needed.
City, state and national leaders have a tremendous opportunity to take the lessons learned from their experiences and factor them into policy at every level of government.
Let’s get this impressive program under way.
Stephen Dilts is New York office leader and senior vice president of HNTB Corp., a national transportation infrastructure firm.