The United States now ranks 25th in the world in infrastructure quality
Qatar, the small middle eastern country was a strategic US location for the Iraq War as Americans used this space as a hub for getting supplies into the front. Needless to say the US invested billions in Qatar infrastructure for it’s own needs.
The 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure performed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the US a grade D. A big fat F was given to public school infrastructure. The ASCE puts the cost of upgrading our infrastructure to the tune of over two trillion dollars. The US highway transportation system is attributed to President Eisenhower’s initiative in 1954 as part of his “Grand Plan.” The current instate highway system was his plan as well.
In 1966 Congress created the Department of Transportation. President Johnson is quoted at the bill’s signing as saying: “In large measure, America’s history is a history of transportation.” If that is so, then it reads more like a Shakespearean tragedy. One third of all US roadways are in poor condition. This causes excess wear and tear on individual vehicles as well as slowing up traffic. In urban areas 45% of highways are congested.
Americans spend a total of 4.2 billion hours a year in traffic and comes with a price tag of 78.2 billion a year in costs in wasted energy. That averages out to $710/motorist a year. In 1995 it is estimated that 1.7 billion gallons of fuel was wasted, but in the last ten years that number has jumped to 2.9 billion.
The fact is, the US spends $70.3 billion annually on roadway infrastructure when 186 billion is needed. Freight transportation by truck has nearly doubled over the last 20 years and has put excessive weight on roads and bridges which were never built for heavy usage.
Speaking of bridges, they’re crumbling down as well. The average age of a bridge in the US is 43, yet they are only built to last 50 years. One in four bridge’s in the US is either “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” Even the iconic Brooklyn Bridge has wear and tear in it’s structure. Repairs are scheduled to begin in 2014.
Another bridge of note is the Dover Bridge in Idaho, it has a sufficiency rating of 2 out of 10. In 2011, a 30” x 30” piece of the deck was found to be hanging from it’s rebar. The cost to repair the bridge is 25 million, but so far funds have yet to be found. Meanwhile 5000 vehicles travel this road every day.
Polls show that Americans favor spending on infrastructure (with the exception of rural Americans who are less likely to see the benefit). Overall, 70% of people rank infrastructure spending as important. A high number of 80% believe that the money spent will boost the local economy and the Chamber of Commerce agrees as well. They have claimed that within two years, every dollar spent will yield $1.92 in direct and indirect economic output. It’s worth noting that this is one of the only issues which puts the Chamber of Commerce on the same side as organized labor.
As I said, according to the ASCE, $2 trillion is needed. If it is not dealt with they estimate the job loss will amount to 3.5 million jobs in seven years. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman laid out his plan for the rebuilding of our infrastructure by putting Americans back to work in his book “End this Depression Now.” He claims “austerity has led to a decline in public sector jobs, but if its kept up with population growth as it did under Bush, the US would have 1.5 million more public sector jobs with the spin-off into the economy of another 500,000 jobs.”
Congress has proved to be inactive on this issue. Seventeen different job bills have been introduced by the Democrats since Obama took office. All have been blocked by the Republicans even though multiple economists have predicted any of these job bills would have produced two million jobs. It’s worth noting that 16% of construction workers are unemployed.
The plutocrats have failed to respond and both parties are to blame. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had the opportunity in January of this year to change the filibuster rules and he failed, fearing the wrath of Republicans. All of the blocked job bills were considered budget neutral, meaning they paid for themselves.
Our deficit in infrastructure is greater then the “spending problem” we hear so much about from the right. Republicans feel they benefit from Obama’s failure, but we all lose. It’s time US infrastructure and job creation bills stopped being held hostage by Republicans and it’s not going to happen without the voice of all of us.