The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The American Infrastructure Crisis

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.

During rush hour on August 1st, 2007, the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145 more. This disaster triggered widespread talk about America’s crumbling infrastructure, an issue that has been put on the backburner amidst the Great Recession. Annually, the United States spends approximately $200 billion on surface infrastructure, though it is not nearly enough to combat collapsing bridges and congested roads.

In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America a ‘D’ on its nationwide Infrastructure Report Card. ASCE estimated that $2.2 trillion is needed to completely reform the nation’s transportation networks, a huge sum of money that is double the federal deficit. Regardless of the government’s inability to provide this money, it must find a solution for the infrastructure crisis. The nation’s current networks were built decades ago for a very different planet. Population has increased and technologies have changed, and lagging infrastructure is not enough to keep up with the nation’s demands. Inefficient transportation is one of the reasons America has had such a difficult time stimulating economic growth; it does nothing but waste time and money.

Besides the United States’ lack of funding for infrastructure repairs, there is neither vision nor leadership regarding how to solve such a widespread problem. Despite President Obama’s discussions about founding a national infrastructure bank (NIB), no progress has been made. In October of 2011, a bill was proposed in the House of Representatives detailing the logistics of a NIB, but it failed to pass through Congress. This bill included funding for surface transportation and air travel repairs, updated water management systems, and public housing improvements, all critical parts of America’s infrastructure that desperately need upgrades. Until recently, congressional talks of a national infrastructure bank had died down. But, on July 12th, 2012, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the necessity, advantages, and disadvantages of a NIB, bringing the issue back to prominence.

While some citizens have concerns that a national infrastructure bank would not get the job done, 32 states and Puerto Rico all currently have state infrastructure banks (SIBs). The SAFETEA-LU legislation signed by former president George W. Bush in 2005 gave all states permission to enact a SIB, though not all have done so. Though not all states have active SIBs, several states, namely Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Florida, and South Carolina, have built effective, efficient SIBs. Successful state infrastructure banks serve as a good model for a national infrastructure bank, showing that it could be very beneficial if run correctly.

As the United States seeks to modernize its Eisenhower-era infrastructure, the establishment of a national infrastructure bank may be the best answer. However, in order for this idea to work, strong leadership is needed, as well as compromise within Congress.

  -- Amanda Parker

 

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