American infrastructure is not in good shape, and fixing it is at the center of president-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan. Take one look at the Infrastructure Report Card, put out every year by the American Society of Civil Engineering, and you’ll see how miserably we’re failing. Overall, America was given a D+ for its infrastructure, reflecting the desperate need for trillions of dollars in investment right now.
Why is infrastructure important?
It’s important to take a time out to remind our readers why good infrastructure is critical to a modern economy. If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in a poor country, you’re likely familiar with all of things we take for granted in the first world.
Clean water, well-maintained highways, a reliable energy grid, environmentally responsible disposal of waste, and dependable public transit are all things people in rich countries consider normal. Historically, rich countries have invested a massive amount in infrastructure because it improves economic prospects. Simply put, not having good infrastructure harms economic growth.
What the hell happened in America?
Our political class has ignored critical investments in our infrastructure for generations. Basically, while our economy has continued to grow, we’ve neglected our infrastructure needs. Our funding priorities have been elsewhere: whether it be for wars overseas, social security or medicare, nobody gave a flying you know what about infrastructure, and now we’re living with the consequences.
Third world America
Evidently, many people don’t think investing in infrastructure is important. I’ve had peers that I consider extremely bright spout talking points at me about how investment in infrastructure doesn’t help economic growth. In reality, those people are blind to the bleak reality that many Americans are already experiencing because of our woefully inadequate infrastructure.
The signs of decaying infrastructure are everywhere in America. We’re way past the warning signs if you connect dozens of news stories from the last decade. We have people in Flint, Michigan literally drinking water contaminated with lead. Interstate highway bridges are collapsing. Miami’s beaches are regularly contaminated with raw sewage because of an out-of-date water treatment system. Washington, D.C. and New York’s subway systems are in such a state of disrepair that officials are planning to shut down lines. Mind you, these horrific examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Trump isn’t over-exaggerating when he says that America’s infrastructure is “third world.” A recent report by the White House confirms our worst fears: “65 percent of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition, one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic, and 45 percent of Americans lack access to transit.”
As a result, traffic on our highways and in the skies has become so congested that average travel times have gone down in the past few decades. There’s little doubt that changing this reality is going to require unprecedented efforts at every level of government.
The Time is Now
Rebuilding America’s infrastructure is pivotal to our economic future. We can’t continue to ignore our infrastructure needs because our public health and economic stability depend on investments made right now. Making up for decades of infrastructure neglect won’t be easy, as it will require a complete reorientation of our funding priorities.
Interestingly, President-elect Trump specifically referenced infrastructure investment as a priority for his administration during his acceptance speech. Hopefully, we will see a great deal of effort to build America a 21st century infrastructure in the next few years.
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