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Infrastructure 2014 report: survey finds public and private views align

by Reg Clodfelter

Although they don’t always see eye to eye, the opinions of public-sector leaders and private-sector developers, investors and advisers are quite aligned on many of the important issues facing the world of infrastructure development, such as which types of assets need the most improvement, which high-impact trends will have the highest impact and which sources of infrastructure funding will be most prominent in the coming decade, according to survey results from Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City, a report by EY and ULI.

The eighth report in an annual series, Infrastructure 2014 centers on a survey, conducted for the report, of nearly 250 public-sector leaders and more than 200 senior-level private developers, investors and real estate advisers.

Both private- and public-sector participants (and 78 percent of all participants) agreed that improving public transit services, including bus and rail services, was the highest infrastructure priority, beating out 13 other options including “better energy infrastructure” and “improved telecommunications infrastructure.”

“This survey indicates a growing awareness among the public and private sector of the importance of investments in a variety of transportation systems, including ‘active’ transportation that offers an alternative to constant car use,” said Patrick Phillips, CEO of ULI, in a statement.

Perceptions of infrastructure quality were, in general, an inversion of the priorities for investment, with public transit services ranked near the bottom for perceived quality and healthcare facilities ranked highest among both private- and public-sector respondents, with 90 percent of total participants saying healthcare facilities were with “good” or “very good.”

The public and private sector also appear to be in strong agreement about what funding sources for new infrastructure are most important, with 75 percent of participants from each sector agreeing that joint development/cooperation between local governments and developers would either be “extremely significant” or “very significant” as a source for funding in the coming decade, beating out six other survey options to be the most popular. The least common selections were the most traditional funding sources: income and property taxes and state and federal contributions.

“We have entered a new era that requires new approaches to funding and building infrastructure to support the creation of communities that are healthier, more livable, economically prosperous and environmentally sustainable,” Phillips continued.

Though there is clearly a need for innovative approaches to funding, both the private and public sector participants agreed that the public’s willingness or ability to pay for infrastructure would be the most significant high-impact trend in the coming decade, showing that some form of public funding will still need to be a major driver of development going forward.

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