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When Are We Going to Get Serious About Infrastructure?

We are continuously consumed with news regarding America’s infrastructure problems and the various agendas to fix these problems. From an aging water distribution system that loses 1/7th of drinking water before it arrives to customers, to roadways and highway projects that are in dire need of repair funding, every political party and construction organization has a position and potential plan to repair the infrastructure.

It’s been just five months since the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released America’s cumulative infrastructure grade with a rating of D+. However, no improvements have happened. When is America going to get serious about infrastructure?

Failures Happen Almost Everyday

Many of the key infrastructure components that make up ASCE’s cumulative grade are rated very poorly. Aviation, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, parks and recreation, roads, schools, transit and wastewater all received a grade of D+ or lower.

ASCE defines a grade of D as “the infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. A large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration. Condition and capacity are of serious concern with strong risk of failure.”

There have been a number of recent major events that show our infrastructure is in need of attention. Examples include:

The numbers that make up the ASCE infrastructure grades and drive the overall rating are staggering: 

  • The average age of the 90,580 dams in the country is 56 years
  • 15,498 (17%) of dams have a High Hazard Potential
  • Americas electrical grid is operating at full capacity
  • 49% of vessels using our inland waterways experience delays
  • 53% of public schools need to make investments for repairs and modernization
  • 9.1% of the nations bridges are considered “structurally deficient”
  • 188 million trips are taken across structurally deficient bridges each day
  • 240,000 water main breaks occur each year
  • $1T is needed just for our drinking water infrastructure to meet the needs for the next 25 years
  • 6 billion gallons of drinking water are lost each year due to leaking pipes
  • 2 out of every 5 miles of urban interstates are congested

On any given day, you can read your local news and find a story in your city or town regarding the local infrastructure that contributes to the numbers above.

Efforts to Improve the Infrastructure 

Even though there are efforts taking place to fund infrastructure projects, the needs are still in excess of $2T. According to the ASCE, failing to close this infrastructure investment gap brings serious economic consequences:

  • $3.9 trillion in losses to the U.S. GDP by 2025
  • $7 trillion in lost business sales by 2025
  • 2.5 million lost American jobs in 2025.

When looking at these numbers, we need to remember that infrastructure encompasses much more than roads and bridges. Infrastructure includes systems and facilities that if not maintained or, if  allowed to fail, would disrupt the economy, safety, health, or welfare of the public. Infrastructure can be man-built (structures, energy, water, transportation, communication systems), natural (surface or ground water resources), or virtual (cyber, electronic data, information systems).

A Call to Action for Our Infrastructure

The U.S. infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy. It spurs economic growth, it impacts our quality of life, and it enhances the competitiveness of our businesses. The federal government cannot continue to talk about infrastructure while it does nothing to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

It’s time for leadership to get serious about infrastructure and to take action at all levels that leads to collaboration and solutions to this national issue. From water and highways to communications and the internet, infrastructure impacts all of our lives.

Research the infrastructure conditions near you and know what is happening in your jurisdiction. Contact your Senator or your House Representative to see what they’re doing to make sure your local infrastructure is reliable for the future.

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