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U.S. Needs Trillions Just To Repair Roads And Bridges

March 15, 2017

Last week, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its report card on American infrastructure. The Society releases this study every four years. It looks at 16 categories of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, ports, public parks, and wastewater systems. Notably, communications infrastructure is not part of the report card.

Overall, America’s infrastructure received a nearly failing grade: a D+. Of the individual categories, the nation’s railways received the highest mark, a passable B. Our transit systems are in the worst shape, generating a grade of D-. (According to the ASCE, there is a $90 billion backlog in transit maintenance.) The nation’s schools receive a D+, as did our parks, energy infrastructure, and hazardous waste systems. Our drinking water systems, roads, inland waterways, aviation systems, and levees all got Ds.

The ASCE argued that the failure to act to improve American infrastructure would have a “cascading impact on our nation’s economy, impacting business productivity, gross domestic product (GDP), employment, personal income, and international competitiveness.” Specifically, the ASCE found that the failure to act would:

  • Reduce the average household income by $3,400 annually from 2016 to 2025.
  • Reduce the average household income by $5,100 annually from 2026 to 2040.
  • Reduce the nation’s economic growth by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.
  • Result in a loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2025.

How much money does the United States need over the next decade in order to repair its failing infrastructure and to keep up with needs driven by population growth? The costs are staggering: nearly $4.6 trillion, according to the ASCE. For example, the nation will need $114 billion for our parks, $870 million for our schools, nearly $1 trillion for electricity systems, and more than $2 trillion for roads and bridges.

Local, state, and federal governments will need to supply the bulk of this funding. Public officials will clearly have their hands full with the 16 ASCE outlined categories. That’s why, for other types of infrastructure, including communications infrastructure, they should rely heavily on the private sector.