Americans Agree: Infrastructure Is A Mess

| by Nik Bonopartis
A highway interchange from a bird's eye view, seen at night.A highway interchange from a bird's eye view, seen at night.

Finally, there's something conservatives, liberals and moderates can agree on: America's infrastructure stinks, and it's time politicians devote real resources to fix it.

Between 80 and 90 percent of respondents of an Association of Equipment Manufacturers poll said the country's roads, bridges and energy grids are in need of "some or extreme" repairs, according to Reuters.

More than half of self-identified Republicans told the pollsters that infrastructure has gotten worse in the past five years, while 41 percent of Democrats said the same. 

Worries over the country's infrastructure aren't new. Every year, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases a "report card" on the state of the country's road, bridge and energy networks. The most recent grade was a D-plus, according to the group.

Beyond the usual categories, the report issued grades on levees (D-), dams (D), ports (C), public transportation (D), drinking water (D) and railways (C+). The only infrastructure element to receive a grade higher than C+ was solid waste, which earned a B- from the group.

But most people still think of roads when they think infrastructure, and that picture isn't pretty either.

"iWth 42 percent of the major urban highways in the U.S. congested and the problem only predicted to increase, there is a great need for our road and traffic systems to be modernized to prepare for and accommodate this congestion," the ASCE's Olivia Wolfertz wrote in an Aug. 5 post.

The group estimates road congestion costs the U.S. almost $200 billion a year.

Another report by the group, issued in May, estimated the U.S. will fall $144 trillion short on funds for necessary infrastructure maintenance for the next 10 years.

In all, more than 70 percent of people who responded to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers poll said government at all levels should be doing more to improve infrastructure.

Robert Puentes, director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told U.S. News & World Report that government leaders "need to be specific about where the money's coming from" for infrastructure repairs and modernization, instead of punting the problem to the next election cycle or the next administration.

States and local governments, he said, should also realize the federal government isn't going to bail them out.

"There isn't going to be any cavalry coming to the rescue anytime soon," Puentes said. "And if you're trying to boost your economy or address climate concerns or connect people to economic opportunity, these places [and local governments] are on their own."

Sources: Reuters, U.S. News & World Report, American Society of Civil Engineers / Photo credit: Mark Fischer/Wikimedia Commons

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