Infrastructure Czar Norman Anderson Advocates Holistic Strategies

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Highly qualified appointee sees job creation as part of the overall value of modernization and repair of systems that knit America together.

The Trump Administration has named Norman F. Anderson to be the nation’s “infrastructure czar,” which provides somewhat of a window on if and how the nation’s roads, airports, ports, public transportation, and electrical grids might be improved over the next several years.

Anderson is an infrastructure professional, currently the president and CEO of CB/LA, a global infrastructure strategy firm that works in the public and private sectors. In addition, he is a visiting professor at Politecnico de Madrid, is a regular contributor to AmericaEconomia, and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Sustainable Construction. With degrees from both Harvard University and the University of Virginia, he volunteered for five years in the Peace Corps in Paraguay

A bipartisan infrastructure advocate, Anderson once worked with the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of Transportation.

Anderson has taken a strong position on American infrastructure planning in the media. He has published in The New York Times and Engineering News Record (ENR), and he has been a guest commentator on Fox News, Fox Business, CNBC and elsewhere. He strongly advocates for infrastructure investments as a means of short- and long-term job creation.

For example, he wrote on the CNBC website in March 2017 that, all told, projects to repair, modernize, and expand infrastructure could cost as much as $5 trillion over the next 10 to 20 years. This compares to about $700 billion currently invested every year at the local, state, and federal level. He feels the proposed $200 billion-per-year increase in infrastructure spending by the Trump Administration is warranted. And with that spending will come up to 3 million jobs, “depending on how wisely and effectively the money is spent,” he wrote. “While some may bristle at the suggestion that a burst of infrastructure spending will produce millions of new jobs, it’s a fact.”

Most notably, Anderson argues for strategic, not political, approaches to spending that will deliver economic efficiencies and job creation over the long term. “To set strategic priorities, decision makers need a new approach, focusing not only on the number of jobs but on their quality and economic sustainability,” he wrote. “The goal should not be to fund large numbers of one-off ‘white elephant’ projects but to create strong, vital, and economically self-sustaining infrastructure.”

Critics say that politics – particularly those that dole out dollars according to influence, not need – make this holistic planning approach unfeasible. But if he can finesse holistic infrastructure budgeting, that might favor pothole repairs.

Deferred maintenance of streets and highways is currently a widespread practice with poor economic returns: failing to fill in potholes and pavement cracks today can increase the cost of road repair by a factor of seven over five years time.