America’s infrastructure is long overdue for an overhaul. Bridges, roadways, dams, airports, railways, sea ports, piers, mass transit, energy, pipelines, cables, conduits, drains, drinking water, wastewater, schools and other structures are in a state of deterioration. Delaying a fix will not only have a dramatic impact on the economy, it will affect public safety and cost more as the problems worsen. The last major investment in our infrastructure was 50 years ago. To date, there is a $90 billion-dollar backlog of work that needs to be done. It is estimated that it will cost 2.2 trillion dollars, over a five-year period, to get America’s infrastructure up to par.
The Current State of America’s Infrastructure
The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) publishes an “Infrastructure Report Card” every four years that evaluates the conditions of America’s infrastructure state by state. The 2017 Report Card has been issued a D+, which means that our infrastructure is in a poor or “at risk” condition. Structures are mostly considered below standard with significant deterioration or at risk for failure. Some states have structures that are hundreds of years old. It is estimated that one out of every 9 bridges in the U.S. is in need of repair. We can no longer continue to turn a blind eye to the risk potential and public safety. Anyone wishing to access infrastructure information by state can visit ASCE’s website at asce.org.
Source: Photo Washington State Department of Transportation Via AP
What is the Answer?
The solutions for America’s infrastructure will need to come from expert leadership, planning and adequate funding. It will be vital to provide repairs or rebuild using materials and technology that will provide structures with long-term resilience against weather conditions and natural disasters. Such repairs will need to be accomplished quickly to keep the economy flowing, and it should provide costs savings wherever possible. Technological innovation will play a key role in solving these problems--to ensure that our infrastructure is strong again.
Look to the innovative solutions currently being implemented by other countries. For example: Producing electricity from fossil fuels, results in 2/3 of the energy being lost to heat and 10% being lost during transmission from distant power plants. Denmark constructed its power plants closer to population centers. That way the heat energy is captured more efficiently. This has reduced the need for more infrastructure and saves energy. Our way of life has changed drastically over the last 50 years; therefore, we need to re-think how our infrastructure needs to function to meet our current needs. Since our roadways and bridges are used on a daily basis, they are at the top of our nation's to-do list. The federally-funded Highway Trust Fund is mostly supported through gasoline taxes. With reluctance to raise the gasoline tax, congress is looking at other funding options for a highway bill that will support the infrastructure long-term.
Meeting the Challenge
Repairing and rebuilding America’s infrastructure will provide enormous business opportunities to those who are poised to bring expert solutions to the table. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit will be leading the way. Thousands of public and private companies, corporations and government entities are involved. 20% of America’s infrastructure is publicly-owned. About 80% to 85% are owned or operated by the private sector. It is the states, rather than the government that allocate monies for infrastructure repairs. Those states with budget constraints will have to set priorities as to what gets repaired first. One thing is certain—the fix cannot wait any longer. America’s roads and waterways are the arteries of the economy. Each day is a risk that the economy will continue to flow as expected.
Funding for Infrastructure Projects
The Obama Administration established an infrastructure pledge of $50 billion dollars, to rebuild roadways, railways and runways, in addition to the stimulus monies already allocated for infrastructure projects. The infrastructure problem; however, is so massive that it most likely will require federal investment. The trump administration has dedicated $200 billion for infrastructure projects that can also be leveraged for $1 trillion dollars investment. His plan includes $25 billion earmarked for rural infrastructure projects as well as a reduction in the time it takes to process permits. Skill-based apprenticeship programs will also an integral part of Trump’s plan. With innovative solutions needed to address America’s infrastructure problem, an abundance of workers, with up-to-date skills will be a necessity. The infrastructure problem could translate in to a much-needed economic stimulus for individuals as well as businesses. Are you ready?