11 Urb. St. & Loc. L. Newsl. 1 (1987-1988)

handle is hein.journals/stlolane26 and id is 1 raw text is: 





                       Public Infrastructure as a

                              National Concern

                                    By Nancy S. Rutledge

Editor's Note: This article is based on Ms. Rutledge's presentation to the Section at the San Francisco
Annual Meetinq. The remarks of other speakers follow this article. 41l together, the analyses should provide
our readers with a comprehensive overview of the public infrastructure debate.

What Does Infrastructure Mean?
  Infrastructure is the physical framework that sup-
ports and sustains the nation's social and economic
life. At a minimum, it includes all of our transporta-
tion, water supply, waste disposal, and flood control
facilities. While these facilities vary widely in form
and function, they share important common features,
such as having direct links to economic development,
high fixed costs, long economic lives, and a tradition
of direct public involvement.
  Collectively, these facilities represent an investment
of over $900 billion, roughly equal to 15 percent of
the nation's total capital stock. Some seven million
people-about 6 percent of the U.S. work force-are
employed in public works construction, operation, and
maintenance. Nearly 7 percent of government spend-
ing at all levels is devoted to these activities. That is
equivalent to about 60 percent of all government
spending on health and about 75 percent of state and
local spending oil elementary and secondary education.
Background of the
Infrastructure Issue
  Infrastructure first emerged           In th
as a national issue in the ear-
ly 1980s. Numerous maga-     Scholar's Column.
zines and newspapers began   Message from the
to report a steady decline in Washington's Lab
both the safety and capacity Supreme Court W
of public works facilities   Drug Testing Pro
throughout the country. The  Sc
tragic collapse of the Mia-
nius Bridge in Connecticut in Infrastructure Sun
1983 provided a riveting il-




lustration that major public facilities no longer appeared
to be as reliable or in as good condition as we had
expected them to be.
   Several major groups, including the Joint Economic
 Committee of the Congress, the Congressional Budget
 Office, and the Associated General Contractors, at-
 tempted to quantify the scope and impact of unfilled
 needs. While their methodologies and estimates varied
 widely, they were able to document declining trends
 in capital investment in infrastructure and enough con-
 sistency to indicate a serious national problem within
 a rough order of magnitude. This information fueled
 demands by various public and private interest organ-
 izations for increased federal funding.
   During the same period, public confidence in the
 role of the federal government as problem-solver began
 to erode. Constriction of various federal grant pro-
 grams and the emergence of the deficit and a host of
 other competing priorities signalled that less moncy
 was likely to be flowing out of Washington.
                        In the midst of this conun-
                      drum, the Congress estab-
                      lished the National Council
issue                 on Public Works Improve-
                      ment in late 1984 to provide
.................. 2  an objective and comprehen-
airman .......... 3   sive overview of the nation's
thine Ways ... 3      infrastructure. Its mandate
1               7     was to provide a series of re-
n Guidelines.. 9      ports to the President and the
                . ICongress on such questions
                      as the age and condition of
ries ............. 19 public works, finance meth-
                   .     (continued onz page 16)

Section of Urban, State and Local Government L~aw

Vol. 11, No. 1, Fall 1987

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