The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President Blaine D. Leonard puts it, “[w]e are still driving on Eisenhower’s roads and sending our kids to Roosevelt’s schools.” How apt a description of our current situation. However, you can add that we are using Roosevelt’s electrical and power grid, too.
According to this recent article by dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland,
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that the nation faces a $2.2 trillion infrastructure backlog. One of every eight bridges is “structurally deficient,” and 85 percent of public transit systems are struggling to carry the growing number of riders.
As I described here, we are living off the investments of previous generations. Instead of improving or, at least, maintaining our roads, we allow the current infrastructure to deteriorate. Instead of investing in the infrastructure needed for the twenty-first century, we kick the can down the road to our grandchildren. Since we have inherited such a great resource in our roads and bridges, we are obligated to preserve them.
However, the article describes the difficult position we find ourselves in regarding investment.
Rising public debt, especially from the feds, threatens to crowd out other spending. The Center for Best Practices at the National Governors Association pointed to the risk of a “lost decade” for state government, with an ongoing budget crunch hanging state policy. It’s time, the center warned, to redesign “state government for the new normal.” Will this new normal have room for infrastructure repair before more bridges crumple, roads crumble and mass transit stumbles?