These are excerpts from a roundtable discussion sponsored byReal Estate Media and LePatner & Associates. The full text willappear in the July-August issue ofReal Estate NewYorkmagazine.

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NEW YORK CITY-The region's growth is threatened by long-terminattention to the state of its infrastructure, a problem that'seven more severe on the state and national levels, according to apanel discussion Wednesday during the BuildingsNY conference at theJacob J. Javits Convention Center here. Expanding the capacity ofthe nation's infrastructure—ranging from highways and mass transitto utilities—while keeping it in a state of good repair willrequire private and public expenditures in the trillions ofdollars, panelists said.

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"We ignore our nation's infrastructure at our peril," saidmoderator Barry LePatner, founder of LePatner & Associates,which specializes in construction law. He noted that last summer'sdeadly bridge collapse along Interstate 35 in Minneapolis wascertain to be repeated elsewhere. "It's a question of when."

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LePatner added, however, that the I-35 span was not even amongthe thousands of US bridges listed as either hazardous orfunctionally obsolete. "That should scare the dickens out ofeveryone."

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Panelist Sam Schwartz, principal of Sam Schwartz Engineering andleader of a forensics team studying the Minneapolis disaster,recalled that as New York City's traffic commissioner in the 1980s,he nearly had to permanently close the Williamsburg and 59th Streetbridges. Upkeep on both heavily traveled spans had been neglectedfor years, Schwartz said.

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"By being penny-wise, we're saddling future generations withenormous costs," Schwartz said, adding that committing funds tomaintaining a state of good repair could reduce the need forexpensive remedial action. "If you invest in children early, youdon't have to invest in jails later."

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Lou Venech, GM of regional transportation policy development atthe Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said it's "importantto see the whole picture" and not just high-profile capitalprojects. In common with other panelists, he called upon thebusiness community to advocate for sustainable sources ofinfrastructure funding. "The politicians have to wake up toallocating money in the budget for maintenance," LePatner said.

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Although the Bloomberg administration's efforts to enactcongestion pricing were unsuccessful, they did represent a"creative" approach to sources of funding, said Mike Meola, SVP ofstrategic planning for the Hudson Yards project at the New YorkCity Economic Development Corp. Meola said a more successfulexample of creative thinking—issuing bonds to finance the extensionof the No. 7 subway line to the Far West Side—has yielded tangibleresults: construction cranes associated with the 7 project arevisible from outside the Javits Center. "The subway is underconstruction and will open in 2013."

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.