A true infrastructure plan that will be carried out seems to be as illusory as a unicorn. But the need has never been greater.
Every administration in recent memory has talked about the need for infrastructure repairs. Yet many of our roads and bridges normally get patched up rather than truly fixed. Jane Clark, Vice President of Member Services covers this topic in depth in a recent IdeaXchange blog. She points out the time for talk is over and the time for action is now. She couldn’t be more on point.
She discusses the latest attempts to fix our crumbling infrastructure: a $1.5 trillion proposal by the Trump Administration, with $200 billion coming from the Federal government and the rest from private and/or state investment. Although this seems like a significant amount, consider this: according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which gives our overall infrastructure a grade of D+, to truly fix our infrastructure would take an astounding $4.6 trillion.
Aside from the fact that the legislation, other than filling potholes and making minor fixes, almost never seems to see the light of day, it is also important to understand why there seems to be such a discrepancy between the ASCE and a wide variety of federal agencies and trade groups. Some have accused the engineers of just looking for more money to benefit their members. However, anyone who drives the roads, bridges, and highways (especially those of us who live in areas that experience snow and harsh winter weather) knows the dangers that badly rutted roads, wheel-destroying potholes, and unsteady bridges can pose for drivers.
According to a 2017 CNN report, these discrepancies include:
- The ASCE says that roads and bridges alone need $2 trillion in investment, yet the FHA indicates that they estimate a need for $836 billion in funding.
- The ASCE states that drinking-water systems need $1 trillion to maintain and expand over a period of 25 years while the EPA feels that $384 billion will suffice.
- The ASCE says that 15,000 dams need work and rebuilding for a cost of $45 billion, while the Association of State Dam Officials feels that half that amount will do the job.
- The Airports Council International North America (not the ASCE) indicates that $100 billion is needed over the next five years to secure and improve airports. However, the FAA has a far lower estimate for needed repairs, just $32 billion.
To be fair, government often wants to fix the immediate problems without looking at future needs. One only has to visit airports in Canada, Europe, and Asia to realize how old, inefficient, and out of touch with customers’ needs our airports are. Or travel the Autobahn to see what a smooth ride should feel like. And let’s not even begin to discuss Amtrak vs. rail service throughout much of the developed world.
The fact is, if we want to be truly competitive in a global environment, we need infrastructure that reflects a 21st century mindset. In the 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act which made our highway system the envy of the world. We need that kind of determination and dedication to improvements today. The hard part is always finding the funds. It’s time to find those funds…our future depends upon it.