Infrastructure Grades are In

Will Trump and Congress Act to Raise America’s G.P.A?

In town halls, state capitols, and legislative hearing rooms across the country, lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle and all levels of government are considering ways to improve the state of America’s infrastructure. It’s an issue that voters care deeply about; according to a recent poll from CNN/ORC International, 79% of respondents support increased spending on infrastructure.

A renewed focus from the American people on the need to invest in our infrastructure has not gone unnoticed by the President. As a candidate, Donald Trump promised a $1 trillion of investment in roads, bridges, airports, and another infrastructure, and in recent days, there have been fresh signs that the Administration intends to make good on Trump’s campaign pledge. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told CEOs on April 4 that an infrastructure package could be released as early as “late May.” The President, meanwhile, commented in early April that his administration is focused on a “major infrastructure bill of a trillion dollars, perhaps even more.”

It’s clear that politicians and the public are beginning to hear a message that’s been promoted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for decades: U.S. infrastructure needs attention and investment. To drive this point home, ASCE released the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, a comprehensive assessment of 16 major infrastructure categories. Using a simple A to F school report card format, the Report Card examines current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigning grades and making recommendations to raise them.

While some incremental progress has been made toward restoring our nation’s infrastructure since the last Report Card in 2013, it has not been enough. America’s cumulative GPA is a D+, the same grade as in 2013.

Fortunately, our nation’s infrastructure challenges – while significant – remain solvable. In addition to analyzing 16 categories of infrastructure, the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card includes recommendations to raise the grade. First of all, America’s infrastructure requires increased, sustained investment, from all levels of government and the private sector, from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of U.S. GDP by 2025. This investment must provide substantial, long-term benefits to the public and the economy and leverage state, local, and private investment, not replace these other funding sources.

Smart investment will only be possible with leadership, planning, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure. We need bold leadership from officials, at all levels of government and in the private sector, to ensure that investment is spent wisely, including planning for the cost of building, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure for the duration of its lifespan. Finally, we need to prepare for the needs of the future, to ensure infrastructure is more resilient and sustainable, with clear economic, social, and environmental benefits.

President Trump is on to something as he calls for a new program of national rebuilding. All Americans share a role in renewing the nation’s infrastructure, beginning with learning about and appreciating the infrastructure all around them, and advocating to make it a national priority. We can’t afford not to. To explore the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card and contact your elected officials about investing in our nation’s infrastructure, visit www.infrastructurereportcard.org.

Views expressed in posts are those of the author and are not endorsed by Infrastructure Week, its steering committee, sponsors, or affiliates.

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