Let’s Talk – Infrastructure Investment: Is It Still Possible?

by Raphael Bostic

In the last few weeks, I have had several conversations on the issue of infrastructure. Each of these made clear the important role that governance has to play in determining the future of infrastructure investment and the state of infrastructure moving forward.

Why a focus on infrastructure? Infrastructure represents a key foundation that enables economic production, innovation, and growth. Without solid and state-of-the-art, or at least functional, infrastructure it is hard to remain ahead of competitors or even keep pace. And our competitors like China, Brazil and Germany are making serious investments in infrastructure.  The US has shining examples of high quality infrastructure investment. The Golden Gate bridge, the interstate highway system and, if you think more broadly, the University of California system all show what great investments can produce.

But, we still have serious needs. Examples abound. The collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis led to a detailed documentation of essential repairs and upgrades required of our bridges and highways.  The havoc Super Storm Sandy created in New York and New Jersey exposed the fragility of our power grid and the insecurity of seemingly stable infrastructure assets.  California’s higher educational system is facing a fiscal crisis at a scale perhaps not seen before.

So we need to solve our infrastructure challenge and in many ways this is, at its heart, a governance challenge. These sorts of investments require a broad consensus and commitment of sacrifice that can generally only be achieved through a collective decision-making process. That is, through our governance processes.  And so if these investments are going to be made, they will have to gain their support through our political process.

Ask yourself: Could we build the Golden Gate Bridge today? Can we expand airport capacity in the Los Angeles Basin? Can we strengthen and expand our power grid?

If you have doubts, ask yourself why. Then ask what we need to do differently to erase those doubts. Then let’s get those ideas out there and make sure that these investments are made!