Context - Fall 2016 - 5



Building a 21st
Century Philadelphia

Properly maintaining, expanding, and upgrading our nation's physical infrastructure is a necessary ingredient for increasing productivity
and growing living standards. Conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. is
not properly maintaining or upgrading our basic infrastructure. The 2013
report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave
the U.S. a grade of D+ for the overall condition of U.S. schools, public
buildings, roads, bridges, ports, water, wastewater, levees, energy, transit,
rail, waterways, aviation, solid and hazardous waste, and dams; up only
slightly from a grade of D in 2009.
Much of our basic infrastructure is past its useful life. It's been 60 years
since the signing of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 - the legislation
that famously created the interstate highway system - but funds to maintain this system have not kept up with needed repairs and upgrades. Our
highways are not the only example. Bridges, transit systems, rail, water,
ports, and sewer systems, our electric grid, and even our air-traffic control
systems suffer from suboptimal reinvestment.
While certain high-profile infrastructure failures capture our attention
and generate consternation and plenty of hot air, the concern dissipates
rapidly and typically without much structural improvement. These big
stories grab attention, but the real infrastructure problems are far broader
and their impacts are stealthier. By its very nature, investment in physical
infrastructure is not very sexy, and besides immediate construction employment, its benefits come well into the future. As a result, public reinvestment
lags since public spending generating immediate benefits garner political
attention and crowd out potential infrastructure investment funds.
We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to these needs, but can we
afford to do what needs to be done? According to the ASCE 2013, the
overall cost to repair and upgrade these essential systems is estimated to be
$3.6 trillion by 2020 - requiring a significantly greater portion of our GDP
than has been allocated to infrastructure in recent decades.
We may not be able to avoid these costs, but we still have choices. We
can spend our infrastructure dollars recreating a 20th century infrastructure
of the past, or we can use them to create a 21st century infrastructure for
the next 50 years - an infrastructure focused on renewable resources,
sustainable practices and better lives for all of us. Design professionals are
already taking the lead in re-imagining what this 21st century infrastructure
can be. These design professionals along with engineers are figuring out
how to develop infrastructure that costs less to build, generates greater
efficiency benefits, and lasts longer. In this issue we consider not only the
benefits inherent in improving our infrastructure here in Philadelphia, but
also how our infrastructure of the past can be re-purposed to serve our
new mission. We hope you enjoy it. ■
Stephen Mullin is President and Principal of Econsult Solutions, an economic
consulting firm based in Philadelphia. His 16 year consulting practice concentrates on state and public finance and policy analysis, economic and real
estate development and impact analyses, and business-government strategies.
David Zaiser is an Associate at Whitman Requardt and Associates LLP specializing in the planning and design of college and university facilities for the firm's
Building Design Group.

AIA Philadelphia | context | FALL 2016 5


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Context - Fall 2016

Editors’ Letter
Up Close
Design Profiles
Index to Advertisers
Mayor Kenney’s Infrastructure Policy
Green Infrastructure in Philadelphia: The Reading Viaduct Rail Park
Streets: They’re Not Just for Cars Any More
Context - Fall 2016 - ebelly1
Context - Fall 2016 - ebelly2
Context - Fall 2016 - cover1
Context - Fall 2016 - cover2
Context - Fall 2016 - 3
Context - Fall 2016 - 4
Context - Fall 2016 - Editors’ Letter
Context - Fall 2016 - Community
Context - Fall 2016 - 7
Context - Fall 2016 - 8
Context - Fall 2016 - 9
Context - Fall 2016 - Up Close
Context - Fall 2016 - 11
Context - Fall 2016 - Mayor Kenney’s Infrastructure Policy
Context - Fall 2016 - 13
Context - Fall 2016 - 14
Context - Fall 2016 - 15
Context - Fall 2016 - Green Infrastructure in Philadelphia: The Reading Viaduct Rail Park
Context - Fall 2016 - 17
Context - Fall 2016 - 18
Context - Fall 2016 - 19
Context - Fall 2016 - Streets: They’re Not Just for Cars Any More
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Context - Fall 2016 - Expression
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Context - Fall 2016 - Design Profiles
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Context - Fall 2016 - Marketplace
Context - Fall 2016 - Index to Advertisers
Context - Fall 2016 - cover3
Context - Fall 2016 - cover4