Record high national debt and ballooning budget deficits force the federal government to make spending cuts as a national consensus builds to temper even popular social entitlements and limit previously untouchable defense programs. Confronting less federal aid, states and local governments in turn grapple with their own budget constraints, including how to fund construction and maintenance of basic infrastructure on which the public depends — schools, hospitals, roads, transit, water and sewer systems, energy and communication systems, dams, and myriad other deteriorating public facilities and systems. Reluctant to raise taxes, they must spend less too.
This necessary fiscal discipline follows three decades of underfunding the country’s infrastructure needs. Most of the nation’s major public works projects — including the interstate highway system, major airports and mass transit systems — were built between 1950 and 1980. Now approaching the end of their useful li