Urges greater investment to maintain aging system
Manager, Rebuild America Coalition, American Public Works Association
Toledo Mayor Carleton S. Finkbeiner, chairman of the Rebuild America Coalition, recently unveiled the coalition's findings concerning the needs of the nation's infrastructure, including roads, bridges, mass transit, aviation, drinking and wastewater treatment, ports and waterways, dams, and school construction. The findings were part of a press briefing and special event held in the nation's capitol in the first week of March.
"We as a nation have enjoyed great prosperity. We have low unemployment, low interest rates, a high Gross Domestic Product, a stock market that has exceeded anyone's expectations," Finkbeiner noted. "In terms of national priorities, infrastructure investment has suffered, becoming a smaller percentage of the overall budget. Yet, we rely upon infrastructure every day."
The three-page report outlines the level of investment necessary to maintain and improve the country's infrastructure system, describes the tremendous public benefits of that investment, and warns of the consequences of failing to act now to correct the infrastructure funding gap.
Mayor Finkbeiner pointed to the successes that the city of Toledo has enjoyed resulting in greater infrastructure investment. "We have focused significant time and resources into planning and implementing infrastructure improvements that are having a dramatic positive impact on how the city looks and functions."
"Over $60 million dollars worth of improvements occurred in 1999 alone. These funds were spent on transportation, sanitary sewer, water distribution, storm drainage, water and wastewater treatment projects," Finkbeiner continued. "New hope is now alive in many of our grand old neighborhoods as well as in our business districts as a result."
The new chairman is eager to pick up where his predecessors, including Ed Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia, have left off. The Rebuild America Coalition plans to take its message to lawmakers at every level of government in an attempt to remind them of the importance of infrastructure to overall economic health and quality of life.
"Regional Rebuild" activities, many involving APWA chapters, continue to stress the "invest in infrastructure" message. Most recently, the Tennessee Rebuild chapter held its annual awards luncheon, Rebuild New York held an "Infrastructure 2000" conference in New York City, and the California chapters held a joint meeting to discuss the formulation of a strategic plan. Nationally, Rebuild intends to invigorate its work with state and local affiliated groups and explore opportunities across the country to foster new Rebuild efforts.
"Rebuild's message needs to be heard," commented Peter B. King, executive director of the American Public Works Association and spokesman for the coalition. "It's time that we fix what is broken, replace what is aged, and place a higher priority on essential services-services that allow all of our nation's citizens to function on a day-to-day basis."
For a copy of the report, or additional information on the Rebuild America Coalition, please visit Rebuild America's web site at www.rebuildamerica.org or contact Ann McCulloch at 202-408-1325.
What is the Rebuild America Coalition?
The Rebuild America Coalition was founded in 1987 and is currently managed by the American Public Works Association. Rebuild is composed of a broad group of public and private organizations committed to reversing the decline in infrastructure investment and bringing infrastructure back to the top of the national agenda. The coalition recognizes the serious state of the nation's infrastructure, its impact on economic competitiveness and quality of life issues, and the need for the government and private sector to work together to provide essential goods and services to the American people.
Rebuild brings issues associated with infrastructure conditions to the public's attention and promotes a concerted national effort to develop, preserve, and restore the nation's infrastructure system. The coalition conducts public information campaigns and educational programs designed to help policymakers at all levels of government, the media, corporate America, and the general public understand the basic issues associated with infrastructure investment and its importance to our daily lives.