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Public Safety

Bridging the Infrastructure Divides

In an era of inflated political passions, where is the pragmatic center when it comes to comparatively dull issues like infrastructure? That was a key question up for discussion last week at an event where I had the pleasure of speaking as a panelist. Hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and supported generously by Bernard L. Schwartz, the event focused on job creation and infrastructure policy, featuring speakers such as Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Chris Coons and Mark Warner, and a host of other policy leaders and experts.

The central theme of the event was the critical need for increased public and private investment in infrastructure, including not just traditional physical infrastructure, but also new digital-physical hybrid infrastructure, such as smart highways and bridges. In addition, the event sought to identify effective policies that might have a reasonable chance of bipartisan support.

One issue that repeatedly came up was how it can be possible, given the major infrastructure challenges facing America, that there is not more support for infrastructure funding. Some argued it is time to make infrastructure “sexy.” Others said we need to make it

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DRIVE Act Drives in Right Direction; Yet Intelligent Transportation Systems Still Underfunded

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee introduced a new bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill this week: the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. And as ITIF called for in a May 2015 report, From Concrete to Chips: Bringing the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act Into the Digital Age, the six-year reauthorization proposal does place increased policy emphasis on intelligent transportation systems (ITS)—particularly through a ground-breaking “Transportation Innovation” title which includes numerous provisions incentivizing the use of innovative transportation technologies.

That said, and despite this progress, the proposed bill continues to significantly underfund ITS research, development, and deployment over the next six-year period. This despite the fact that intelligent transportation systems—the application of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to bring actionable, real-time intelligence to every actor and asset in a transportation network—have a cost-benefit ratio at least 9 to 1 over investments in traditional highway infrastructure.

With regard to research and development (R&D), the DRIVE Act keeps ITS research funding constant at $100 million annually. While the Act does provide an additional $72.5 million annually for the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program to fund

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