Underinvestment in U.S. transportation and water infrastructure, to the extent it is occurring, varies widely by ownership, geography, and type of infrastructure. The authors of a new report by RAND, "Not Everything Is Broken: The Future of U.S. Transportation and Water Infrastructure Funding and Finance," see no need for wholesale change in current roles and responsibilities among federal, state, and local governments. Policy changes at the federal level could drive public spending to high-priority regional-scale projects designed to deliver sustained national economic benefits. Changes in federal tax and fiscal policy could draw more private capital into financing public infrastructure, but direct private investment in transportation and water infrastructure is likely for only a limited class of profitable projects, and striking the appropriate balance between a larger role for the private sector and protecting taxpayers from financial risk has proven difficult in practice.
The report's key findings include the following:
* The data do not support a picture of precipitous decline in national spending on the physical condition of transportation and water infrastructure.
* Where the local and regional economies...