NY, August 5, 2019. –The infrastructures of the United States is an issue that interests us all, the construction companies and professionals, the public and private developers, and of course, each of the taxpayers. For this reason, I have selected the approaches (opinion) of three media outlets to check what is the salute of the infrastructures of the United States: Bloomberg, CNBC and Cincinnati.
Bloomberg: A chronic problem requires unglamorous remedies
Without doubt, America needs to spend more on public works. But the country’s most pressing need isn’t big new projects. It’s humdrum maintenance work. Harbors need dredging, levees need hardening, aging power grids need repairs and upgrades. By one estimate, America’s existing highways need $420 billion in fixes and its bridges need $123 billion.
A one-time splurge of the kind being discussed is the wrong approach to these recurrent problems. Though it might forestall an imminent crisis, it would also encourage unnecessary projects, raise long-term maintenance costs, diminish the impetus for states to help themselves, and in all likelihood leave many vital-but-unglamorous needs unaddressed. By festooning the projects with federal red tape — such as “Buy American” provisions and restrictive labor rules — it will also ensure that they cost more than they should.
A better solution requires policy-makers to confront some underlying issues.
One reason for the maintenance backlog is that states have many incentives to spend on new projects and few to attend to old ones. Ribbon-cutting ceremonies will reliably get more headlines than replacing decrepit heating and ventilation systems, for instance, or shoring up structures to cope with climate change. States generally don’t need to recognize deferred maintenance as a liability for budgeting purposes, even though it is. And because new projects raise annual maintenance costs in perpetuity while reducing what’s available for current needs, the problem compounds.
The perverse result is that even as spending increases or stays flat relative to GDP, infrastructure can actually deteriorate. Between 2009 and 2017, the U.S. doled out more than $300 billion for roads, thanks to two spending bills and the federal stimulus program. Yet the percentage of roads in poor condition rose from 14% to 20%.
CNBC: Who will pay?
As the CNBC has published, the ASCE gave the United States a current overall grade of “D+” in its most recent “Infrastructure Report Card” in 2017. Smith acknowledged that a “D+” is a “very lousy score.”
The poor grade “reflects unfortunately, a failure to invest in our infrastructure in the United States. We’ve been relying on the work that was done by former generations,” he said. “And there’s an investment that we need to make to make sure we’re protecting future generations going forward.”
Smith explained the ASCE has a panel of civil engineers who analyze federal government data in 16 categories, releasing the “report card” every four years.
“We’re looking at aviation, bridges, roads, transit, dams, levees, schools, parks, solid waste, drinking water, waste water,” he told CNBC. “Unfortunately, 12 out of 16 categories are in the “D” range, which is “poor” or “at-risk”, which is really reflecting a lot of our infrastructure being at the end of its useful life.”
Smith said the ASCE calculated a $2 trillion dollar infrastructure funding gap between 2015 and 2025. He added that about half of that is for surface transportation, which includes transit, roads, bridges and rail.
In the ASCE’s report card, transit scored a “D –”, the nation’s roads rated a “D”, and bridges got a “C+”, but the organization did reveal some positive news.
“The highest grade right now is in the rail category. And I think that reflects freight rail with a lot of private investment,” Smith stated. “But on the passenger side, I think that’s really bringing that score down. We need a lot of investment there.”
It all raises a central question: Who will pay?. “It certainly needs to be federal tax dollars,” Smith explained. “It needs to be state and local tax dollars. And it also needs to be private investment.”
Smith said he believes “the dialogue has changed, the conversation is changing” around infrastructure spending and that more people are “recognizing this is a real problem. Fortunately, President Trump as well as Speaker Pelosi have both talked about infrastructure. This is a bipartisan issue.”
In terms of funding, the ASCE recommends “increasing the federal gas tax, is the easiest short-term solution,” Smith said.
That could be a tall order amid strong political opposition to making it more expensive for drivers to fuel their cars. The federal excise tax on gasoline has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993.
“But ultimately,” Smith said, “the people who use infrastructure, and that’s all of us, we have to pay for it. We have to recognize that.”
He added: “In some ways this maybe is a culture change, we need to recognize how important our infrastructure is for our quality of life. We need to be willing to invest in it, and pay for it. ”
Cincinnati: Infrastructure drives our economy
The condition of our highway transportation systems is well-documented. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) assesses the condition of our infrastructure in a national Infrastructure Report Card. The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card rated the nation’s roads a “D” grade, transit a “D-” and bridges a “C+.”
The poor condition of our infrastructure is starting to impede our ability to compete in the global market. Not only is it affecting commerce, but it is impacting our mobility and quality of life.
Twenty-seven states have recently taken steps to increase infrastructure funding by increasing their state motor fuels tax. The Brent Spence Bridge, which has always been a choke point, is becoming even more congested. Earlier this year, Gov. Mike DeWine and state legislators committed to modernizing Ohio roads and bridges by increasing our state gas tax from 28 cents to 38.5 cents, generating about $865 million per year for road and bridge projects. But we need leadership and action at all levels of government; this is especially true at the national level.
No one likes to pay more taxes, but everyone can appreciate improved and working infrastructure systems. Across the country, people recognize that funding is needed to maintain, repair and upgrade our transportation systems. It is basic economics: there is no such thing as free lunch and, likewise, no free infrastructure.
Failing to address our deteriorating infrastructure will have a cascading effect on our nation’s economy, mobility and public safety. It will impact business productivity, GDP, employment, personal income and international competitiveness. Businesses, communities, families and drivers are already paying a financial burden with the additional costs being creating by poor infrastructure. Americans request and support action on this issue. Now it’s Washington’s turn.
American Society of Civil Engineers
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