Summary of If You Build It

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The need for infrastructure improvements in the United States, where investment has been falling for decades, has never been greater. According to a 2013 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, it would take an estimated $3.6 trillion to bring America’s transportation, utilities and flood-control structures back to acceptable levels of safety and reliability. This astute report from policy experts Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Ryan Nunn and Greg Nantz offers a systematic approach to prioritizing, selecting and funding projects. The authors emphasize the importance of financial responsibility and impartial decision making in tackling this enormous undertaking. getAbstract recommends this timely study to officials charged with the oversight of infrastructure spending.

About the Authors

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is the director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, where Ryan Nunn is a policy director and Greg Nantz is a research analyst.



Between 1980 and 2015, US public infrastructure investment fell from 1.5% to 0.6% of GDP. Since 2002, spending slowed by more than half, resulting in deferred maintenance and degradation of roads, bridges, transportation, schools, water and wastewater facilities, dams, hazardous-waste remediation, and other areas. While not the sole driver, infrastructure deterioration helps drag down economic efficiency and productivity, which, in turn, lower living standards and the functionality of democratic institutions. Productivity growth decelerated from 2003...

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