Introduction to United States Infrastructure

Written By:

Emily Eames and Joseph Sweeney

Publishing Date: 

June 11, 2022

Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical and organizational structures and amenities that are required for both society and the economy. When governments talk about the term “infrastructure,” they are usually referring to transportation, broadband, and energy. Other categories of infrastructure include: · Aviation · Bridges · Dams · Drinking Water · Hazardous Waste · Inland Waterways · Levees · Ports · Public Parks · Roads · Schools · Solid Waste · Stormwater · Wastewater ​ Along with keeping citizens safe and healthy, good infrastructure allows the economy to run more efficiently and seamlessly. Infrastructure offers economic development, employment, and an overall better quality of life. However, this can’t happen if the infrastructure isn’t well-maintained. Currently, United States infrastructure suffers from low quality and poor maintenance. ​ Since the 80’s the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has compiled a report card for the United States infrastructure based on capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. For the past twenty years the United States has received, on average, a D+. However, in 2021 the United States received a C-, demonstrating that we are slowly making the investments and improvements necessary to compete in the global economy. Compared to our global competitors, the United States infrastructure ranks 13th in the world as of 2019. The United States places behind countries like Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. ​ The current infrastructure systems in the United States are outdated and overstressed from a lack of proper maintenance. Many economists agree that the delays and increasing maintenance cost due to our exhausted infrastructure are hindering our economic performance. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, some of the prominent issues facing America’s infrastructure are as follows. · Delays caused by traffic congestions cost the economy over $120 billion per year. · The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that one in four bridges are deficient, 10% are structurally deficient, and 14% are functionally obsolete. · The United States air transportation supports 1.4 million US jobs and offers hundreds of billions of dollars of tax revenue. Yet, the delays and avoided trips due to poor infrastructure cost the economy over $35 billion each year. · The United States commercial rail system transports almost 40% of our country’s goods, however, the U.S. passenger rail system has billions in backlog investment. · In a study done by the Environmental Protection Agency, drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation systems require $632 billion in additional investment. · The United States electrical grid is struggling without the necessary investment needed to confront the increasing power outages, which cost the economy billions of dollars. · Rural and low-income communities are suffering from a “broadband” gap due to a lack of infrastructure that is needed to deliver reliable, high-speed internet. ​ These are just some of the issues facing America’s aging infrastructure. Experts agree that investing in new infrastructure and maintenance costs would help stimulate the economy. Maximized efficiency, reliability, and lower transportation cost would catalyst long-run competitiveness and future employment. ​ In November of 2021 Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the new act aims to correct the investment gap in America's infrastructure by investing over $1 trillion in infrastructure. President Biden's plan for this act includes. · Rebuilding America’s roads and bridges, · Expanding access to clean drinking water and eliminating lead pipes. · Ensuring every American has access to high-speed internet. · Improving public transit while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. · Upgrade airports and ports to strengthen America’s supply chain. · Heavily invest in passage rail. · Build a nationwide network of electric vehicle chargers. · Upgrade power infrastructure with an aim to achieve a zero-emissions future. · Build climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather resilient infrastructure. · Invest in environmental remediation. ​ Along with tackling America’s worn-out infrastructure, the act will also add, on average, 1.5 million jobs per year for the next ten years. ​ While infrastructure may lack the same appeal to many young people’s sense of what is important in the world, it is still a useful topic for youth to be invested into. Infrastructure can sometimes feel too overly broad a subject, intimidating young folks from engaging with it, but it is nonetheless something that affects the lives of everyone. Youth looking to become involved with improving infrastructure should start locally by attending town and city council meetings and observing the condition of roads, schools, and water and sewage systems and bring anything that seems amiss to the city’s attention, such as an excessive amount of pot holes on high traffic roads or water systems not adequately draining water to make outdoor activity safe after recent rain.

Sources

2022, Jan. 24. "ASCE's 2021 American Infrastructure Report Card: GPA: C-." ASCE's 2021 Infrastructure Report Card.

Ferguson, Caroline. (2018, Jan. 10). "5 Issues with America's Infrastructure." Committee for Economic Development of The Conference Board. https://www.ced.org/blog/entry/five-issues-with-americas-infrastructure-problem

McBride, James, and Anshu Siripurapu. (2021, Nov. 8). "The State of U.S. Infrastructure." Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/state-us-infrastructure

2021, Dec. 2. "President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law." The White House. The United States Government. https://www.whitehouse.gov/bipartisan-infrastructure-law/

Puentes, Robert(2016, July. 28). "Why Infrastructure Matters: Rotten Roads, Bum Economy." Brookings. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/why-infrastructure-matters-rotten-roads-bum-economy/