Let’s face it, the nation’s infrastructure is a crumbling mess. Bridges are collapsing, highways are littered with potholes, sewage systems are leaking, and government funding for maintaining the infrastructure is all but exhausted.
Shortly before press time, President Obama announced he is seeking $50 billion for infrastructure spending that would put construction workers back on the job without adding to the nation’s deficit. The $50 billion Infrastructure Bank is part of six-year transportation plan to be introduced by the administration to Congress this fall. According to various news reports, the bill would be “front-loaded” to spend money in the initial years as a measure to create jobs in the short term, stimulating not only the economy but the stagnant construction equipment market as well. Initial spending would be used to repair 150,000 miles of road, 4000 miles of railway, and 150 miles of airport roads.
The trickle-down effect of the $50 billion in spending to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, runways, railroads, and other areas of infrastructure ultimately could result in new construction tools and equipment being purchased by contractors—jumpstarting a construction equipment industry that has been flat as of late.
Despite the potential of Obama’s solution, there are much bigger problems looming for the nation’s infrastructure. In order to repair the infrastructure to good condition, the total tab would cost approximately $2.2 trillion over the course of five years, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Reston, Va. Currently, the ASCE has fallen just short of labeling the nation’s infrastructure as a failure, and we may see that accreditation sooner than later.
Granted, the latest Obama proposal is a stop-gap solution for the nation’s infrastructure woes; the focus should be on the long-term problems we face. However, the funding a multiyear transportation bill can provide state and local governments offers the opportunity to implement the long-awaited infrastructure construction projects necessary.
Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Milwaukee, applauded Obama for recognizing the importance of infrastructure investment to the longterm strength and competitiveness of the country. However, Slater says the focus should remain on the long-term investment in our infrastructure. “Although the President’s plan for an Infrastructure Bank and increased capacity in our infrastructure system is an important step, Congress has the opportunity to act now on transportation reauthorization that will result in immediate job creation. We need a strategic vision for modernizing our country’s infrastructure, and leaders with the courage to make it happen. We need Congress to pass a transportation bill, and they need to come together on a robust, multifaceted, and sustainable way to pay for it, including consideration of a user fee increase.”
We can only hope that action to reauthorize the next version of the transportation bill is swift—for the sake of the construction industry and our own safety as we commute to jobsites.