Considering an Innovative Change in Transportation Infrastructure
We live in an age of unparalleled innovation, with innovation affecting all we do and how we do it. But at the forefront of innovation news, and capturing the imagination of the public, is innovation in transportation. From changes in business and industry processes like Uber, to changes in hardware for partial to fully automated vehicles, the world of the automobile is in rapid transition.
However, exciting innovation in transportation is not limited to automobiles. From broadband connectivity on airplanes, to Carnival Corporation’s cruise ships featuring a new vacation management system controlled from a guest’s wrist, to a freight train’s ultrasonic detection analysis, these innovations highlight the exciting changes already underway across the transportation industries.
For the most part such advances rely on an underlying infrastructure–whether ports, roads or tracks built by government with the costs and risk borne by the taxpayers. More expense is anticipated as the current condition of much of the nation’s infrastructure is suspect. This is why Americans, of whatever political persuasion and wherever located, broadly agree the United States needs better infrastructure to be able to capture the benefits of an innovative, advanced 21st century economy.
The American Society of Civil engineers reports the economy could lose $4 trillion in GDP over 10 years if investments are not made. The loss to GDP only increases as infrastructure is allowed to further deteriorate. The impact on business is dramatic – loss of sales totaling $7 trillion by 2025 and $29.3 trillion by 2040. Families will bear the brunt of the negative economic winds. The Society projects that between 2016 and 2025 every household will lose $3,400 because of deteriorating infrastructure. But it gets worse—2.5 million jobs will be lost in the next eight years. Regardless of the exact impact or the exact timing, sooner or later all infrastructure deemed to be necessary will need to be replaced.
This challenge has hardly been addressed much less solved. Fundamental questions remain to be answered. What is the right approach? How much should be spent on new infrastructure and how much on reconstruction? What is priority? Who should pay for it all? Given the largely wasted spending, financed by the tax payers, on illusory “shovel ready” projects during the last presidential administration these questions loom large.
Consider the benefits of some of the large capital projects being paid for with private funds rather than government largesse. The obvious benefit would be that taxpayers would not be on the hook for the huge investment or decades of maintenance. This innovative experiment could be underway in Texas so long as the Texas legislature does not interfere by passing legislation intentionally targeting the free market plan.
A company called Texas Central hopes to build, maintain and operate a high speed passenger railroad from Dallas to Houston as long as it is allowed to continue to invest in its dream. Texas has the opportunity to lead in infrastructure innovation if only it will simply allow the free market to prosper and the people of Texas to reap the gains.