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The bipartisan Infrastructure Act represents an overdue and necessary investment into our crumbling roads, bridges, ports and highways. But rebuilding is not enough. It is time to restructure our cities and highways.

 

The act includes:

• $110 billion for roads and bridges.

• $73 billion to upgrade the electric grid.

• $66 billion for passenger and freight rail.

• $42 billion for ports and airports.

• $39 billion for public transit.

• $15 billion for electric vehicles.

 

California is scheduled to receive $25.3 billion over five years for repairing roads in the state that are in poor condition, $4.2 billion over five years for repairing bridges in the state that are in poor condition, $3.5 billion for water infrastructure and eliminating lead pipes in the state, $1.5 billion for airport infrastructure and other funds, according to the Associated Press. Other states will also do well.

New roads, bridges, water plants and improvements to ports and airports can only enhance the value of commercial real estate.

The current architecture of our cities and many suburbs doesn’t work. We need better planning to address structural problems including congestion, pollution and compromised safety to increase our health, our economy and quality of life.

When today’s architecture of cities was designed, no one could have predicted the Internet and the explosion of online shopping, which led to the rise of constant large delivery trucks from Amazon, UPS and FedEx clogging our streets. These bigger trucks forced many cities to create wider streets, which only added to the problem.

“Larger vehicles are also more difficult to maneuver, meaning many trucks must double park on city streets to make deliveries, blocking bike lanes and sidewalks,” Curbed magazine reports. A 2018 report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) notes that large trucks comprise 4% of the vehicles on the road but cause 7% of pedestrian fatalities and 12% of car and passenger deaths.

Add to that the growth of Uber and Lyft, which increased the use of private cars instead of mass transit, and the congestion situation has become much worse. Cities are not designed for ride share services and free street parking, which leads to more congestion and urban sprawl.

When the funds roll in, we can rebuild and restructure. A recent study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Bloomberg Associates and the Pembina Institute calls for urgent action by cities to combat “delivery deadlock.” The study presented examples from around the world showing how cities can improve freight delivery and reduce congestion with “neighborhood-scale delivery hubs, loading zones that utilize pricing technology, citywide e-commerce charges and new systems that make the most of underused inland waterways.”

Cities from Santa Monica to San Francisco to New York City are working to implement many of these innovative solutions. In Santa Monica, the nation’s first zero-emission delivery zone was launched earlier this year. 

According to the city, “the ZE Delivery Zone will provide priority curb access for zero emission delivery vehicles in select loading areas in the zone. Technology from Automotus will: monitor and analyze all vehicle activity in each curb zone while protecting privacy; collecting anonymized data for studying impact on delivery efficiency, safety, congestion, and emissions; and making real-time parking availability data available to ZE Delivery Zone drivers.”

San Francisco is trying to legislate smaller, safer delivery trucks that take up less space on the road and have fewer blind spots for drivers to reduce accidents and fatalities. These smaller delivery trucks, used in Europe for decades, could greatly reduce congestion in our crowded urban areas.

 

The problems are so serious in New York that the city council introduced a comprehensive series of bills this year, which includes plans for:

• Micro distribution centers.

• Commercial loading zones to be metered.

• Expand loading zones in densely populated neighborhoods.

• Commercial buildings must submit delivery and servicing plans.

• Secure package rooms in all residential buildings.

• Asking the Department of Transportation to redesign all New York City truck routes.

 

Some of these proposals, such as requiring smaller delivery trucks, congestion pricing for commercial loading zones, promotion of mass transit options and fewer free street parking, can be implemented relatively quickly. Other ideas, such as micro distribution centers, redesigning streets and highways, zero-emission zones along with more charging centers,

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not just to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure but to redesign our traffic flow, parking and commercial delivery options that make our cities safer and more productive. The time for bold action on safer, cleaner and more efficient cities is now.

 

David Damus is the chief executive officer of System Property, a privately held commercial office property and management firm in California.