Much of America's infrastructure — the interstate highway system, mass transit networks and more — is well-over half a century old and in need of serious repair and modernization. System breakdowns and bottlenecks are slowing commerce, at a cost to the economy and America's global competitiveness. The World Economic Forum put the U.S. 24th last year in the quality of its infrastructure, down from fifth in 2002.
The dilemma facing any president is how to maintain critical public works when budgets are crippled. Both candidates say infrastructure is important. The divide is over how to pay for it, and which projects.
Obama has favored stimulus-style spending and pushed for innovations like high-speed rail. Romney favors less federal involvement. He also shuns the idea that public-works spending is a good way to jumpstart the economy, saying decisions on projects should be based on need and potential returns.
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