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On the Record

Looking at the Proposed National Infrastructure Bank

Robert Puentes

In the following interview, Robert Puentes explains the role of an infrastructure bank and discusses how properly managed transportation investments could provide a boost to the U.S. economy.

PEDRO ECHEVARRIA, C-SPAN: Joining us now on the screen, Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution. He studies with their Metropolitan Policy Program, he’s a senior fellow. Mr. Puentes, as a part of the economy, where does infrastructure play, as far as the economy is concerned?

ROBERT PUENTES: Infrastructure has a profound role to play in the economy of this country. We know that the infrastructure that we have in place today has got some problems in terms of its maintenance and its rehabilitation. We have an interstate system, for example, that’s 50 years old that needs to be rebuilt. We have metropolitan transit systems that are bursting at the seams. We have gasoline pipes that are bursting in California and some other places, so fixing the existing infrastructure is a critical thing we need to do. But we also need to think about the kind of infrastructure we need to enable us to compete here in the 21st century. You look around, you look at what Germany is doing, the U.K., Canada, China of course, and we look at the infrastructure they have in place and we wonder “How are we going to be able to compete economically with these powerhouses if we don’t have the kind of infrastructure that’s going to enable us to really be productive?”

ECHEVARRIA: What’s the difference then in the European countries’ approach rather than the U.S. approach?

PUENTES: Well, part of the problem is that we don’t really make those kinds of strategic decisions in infrastructure that we need to make. The problem that we have now as it particularly relates to the transportation program, is that we take federal dollars in particular, we spread it around the country very thinly like peanut butter, we don’t prioritize in those investments that we need to make. So we’re missing those things that really are of national and regional significance. And that’s why things like what the president talked about with the national infrastructure bank are so critical for us today.

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