Last month, in Genoa, Italy, an elevated highway bridge collapsed, plunging three dozen cars and trucks 150 feet to the ground and killing 37. Back in 2007, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis suffered a catastrophic failure that killed 13 people and injured 145 others.
These two incidents are dramatic examples of how dangerous aging infrastructure can be. In both cases, a failure to inspect and deal with fatal faults in the design and state of the bridges resulted in injuries and deaths.
More stories like these have happened throughout the United States. Only a few have made the news. What’s worse is that according to experts, more can be expected as our nation’s roads, bridges, highways, water systems, dams, and other vital parts of our infrastructure deteriorate.
Why Infrastructure Has Deteriorated to This Level
Infrastructure has gotten to the point it is now – where entire systems are in danger of collapse and failure – because of a long history of politicians and voters not being willing to pay for inspections, repairs, and upgrades.
Traditionally, transportation departments are underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. Budgets have shrunk or not kept up with increased construction. Plus, whenever an elected official did place a bill on the table – such as the latest federal infrastructure bill that has languished in Congress for months – usually nothing comes of it.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) knows just how bad it’s gotten. ASCE estimates that the nation needs to spend over $4.5 trillion in just seven years – by 2025 – if we are to stave off further catastrophic failures. The organization gave US infrastructures a D+ grade in 2017, the same grade it received four years earlier.
Will Infrastructure Relief Come?
The Trump administration announced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan in 2017, but the plan mostly called for increased defense spending, and left the burden of paying to repair roads, highways, dams, waterways, and other components to state and local government.
This spring, White House officials announced that no infrastructure bill is expected to be passed before midterm elections this November.
It is possible that Congress will take up once again this issue in 2019, but there is no guarantee that it will go any farther than it has previously. For starters, infrastructure spending is not as “attractive” an issue as others politicians favor. The public is not up in arms about our nation’s poor infrastructure, and few candidates are campaigning on the issue this year.
If Republicans retain control of Congress, their focus will more than likely be on repealing the Affordable Care Act. If Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress, their focus will likely be on fighting the Trump administration.
It is possible that infrastructure spending will remain tabled, perhaps until the next president takes office in 2021.
The hope is that politicians see infrastructure spending not as an expense, but an investment. If $4.5 trillion were spent on infrastructure over the next seven years, the economic impact would be massive. More jobs would be created, contractors and subcontractors would see a surge in business, manufacturers would benefit, and suppliers in the steel and concrete industries would be flooded with orders.
Infrastructure spending can bolster the economy while keeping Americans safe. It’s up to our elected officials to pursue it.
ProcessBarron engineers, manufactures, and installs equipment and infrastructure for a variety of industries, ranging from power to steel, cement, and pulp & paper. Contact the team for more information.