America's crumbling infrastructure

America's crumbling infrastructure

By Kaye Foley

America’s infrastructure could be reaching a breaking point. Literally. When it comes to our transportation infrastructure — that’s railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads — the United States has gotten way off track.

In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent report card gave America’s infrastructure a D+. And according to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. ranks 16th in quality of overall infrastructure, behind countries like France, Spain and Japan.

Our roads, for example, require a lot of maintenance, especially after a long winter. All those potholes and rough roads cost drivers an estimated $324 a year spent on car repairs. Many roads are often jammed with traffic. Forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways are considered congested. And that costs the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel each year.

It’s not just the highways and roads. Around 70,000 bridges are structurally deficient, which means they’re not unsafe but are in poor condition due to deterioration.

So why is America’s infrastructure beginning to crumble? Maintaining and improving infrastructure is expensive — really expensive. According to the ASCE report, an estimated $1.7 trillion is needed by 2020 for our surface transportation to be improved.

State and local governments largely finance infrastructure in the U.S., but when they’re short on funds, infrastructure moves down the priority list.

The federal government provides crucial funding through something called the Highway Trust Fund, which gets its revenue mostly from a gas tax. It’s 18.4 cents per gallon, but it hasn’t been raised since 1993. The tax brings in around $34 billion each year, which isn’t enough for all the infrastructure projects across the nation.

Over the years, Congress has passed a series of fixes to keep the fund going, but it is expected to go broke on May 31 if lawmakers don’t act quickly. On May 19 the House passed a two-month extension, and it is expected to also pass in the Senate. Still, a more permanent fix is needed. Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that this is a critical issue. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in January, “We’ve got to find a way to deal with America’s crumbling infrastructure.”

But so far for Congress, and even the White House, the road forward doesn’t include raising the gas tax. And they can’t see eye to eye on other spending to allocate for infrastructure either.

So when it comes to the state of America’s infrastructure, at least after watching this video, you can say, “Now I get it.”