America is stuck. Just look at its crumbling roads and bridges, mismanaged railways, easily overloaded air-traffic-control system and perpetual lack of political will to do anything about these issues at all. In contrast, take a trip around the world. Whiz through the Chunnel connecting England and France, get high-speed Internet and cell service on a remote mountain in Turkey or travel in a driverless Mercedes in Germany and see the future of possibilities that the U.S. is barely glimpsing or even talking about.
What’s wrong with the infrastructure debate in America? For starters, the word infrastructure doesn’t sizzle. It sounds technical, inanimate and bureaucratic. The case for infrastructure is often made by statistical abstractions, not by emphasizing the daily needs of ordinary Americans: how we get to work, find affordable goods and services, take our children to school or access health care.
America needs a vision that can inspire, unite and motivate action. The scare factor doesn’t rally support, though it can make headlines. The magnitude of the problem and the roadblocks to action can seem daunting. But there are numerous bright spots–some of which are highlighted below–in every mode of transportation and many communities that serve as guides to the future.
Kanter is a professor at Harvard Business School and the best-selling author of Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead
This appears in the June 29, 2015 issue of TIME.