Daily Dirt

Infrastructure Fanatic

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called himself an “infrastructure fanatic” on Saturday, but he said U.S. politicians need to do a better job of marketing if they want to spend more on fixing the nation’s roads and bridges. “The word infrastructure means nothing to the majority of people of America,” Schwarzenegger said. “We have to come up with a sexier word than infrastructure.”

The state’s marketing was successful, the governor said, because state officials made it simple to understand. Rather than talking about infrastructure, they asked residents if they were angry about getting stuck in traffic every day and if they were tired of having their children in overcrowded classrooms.

“I think it is important for us to recognize that our infrastructure in this country is like a developing country rather than a developed country because we’ve fallen behind,”

Schwarzenegger said. “One thing, for instance, is the rail system. When you think about it, our trains go the same speed today as they did a hundred years ago, so where’s the progress?”

Schwarzenegger offered California’s approach as a way to build public support for infrastructure projects. The governor’s $42 billion strategic growth plan, which was approved by voters in 2006, included money for levees, transit and transportation projects, classrooms and housing, among other things.

Taking the national stage in Washington just a day after signing off on California’s state budget, the Republican governor criticized the federal government for spending too little on infrastructure projects and for not doing enough planning to see them through.

“There’s really no plan in Washington,” he said.

Schwarzenegger, appearing at the winter meetings of the National Governors Association, said the United States should follow the lead of nations such as France, Germany, and Japan in developing high-speed rail systems. He said that would result in people taking fewer flights of 200 miles or less while creating less pollution at the same time.

The governor said his plan represented “a big, big step forward” for California and suggested it could serve as a national model.

“The federal government has to obviously do the same thing,” Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger said the $787 economic Stimulus Package signed by President Barack Obama would benefit the state and create much-needed jobs. The White House is estimating that it could save or create nearly 400,000 jobs in the state in the next two years.

“Is it perfect? No, but I think it’s a terrific package,” the governor said. He criticized it moments later, saying “the only disappointing part” was that it spent too little — $115 billion — on infrastructure projects. “We all felt, as infrastructure fanatics, we hoped that we would get $300 billion or $400 billion.”

AIA Forecast

Despite a struggling U.S. housing and construction market, churches may be a bright spot for builders. The American Institute of Architects has released a construction forecast that predicts religious construction will be the top-performing nonresidential sector in 2010.

The AIA Consensus Construction Panel releases predictions for the next 12 to 18 months. Data that influence the prediction is collected from sources such as Global Insight, Moody’s economy.com, and FMI. Forecasts have been released every year for the past 11 years.

Greg Sitek

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