How to Fix Outdated Transportation Infrastructure in the United States

Image via Flickr komunews
Image via Flickr komunews

Infrastructure across the United States is crumbling. Roads, highways, and bridges need serious attention. However, legislators don’t always agree on how to fix the widespread problems or how to pay for them. As a result, poor infrastructure is taking a toll on supply chains in the United States, with no long-term solution in sight.

Current State of American Infrastructure

As 60 Minutes reports, one in every nine bridges in the United States is considered structurally deficient due to corroded steel or crumbling concrete. That’s nearly 70,000 bridges that require replacement or repair across the nation, with dangerous bridges found in every state.

American infrastructure is falling apart because organizations and agencies haven’t made substantial investments to fix the problem. With the exception of a small stimulus program, nothing comprehensive has been done. Even the gas tax, which could help fund infrastructure projects, hasn’t increased significantly for decades. Politicians haven’t spent the money to improve roads, bridges, airports, seaports, or other transportation infrastructure across the nation.

Programs to Improve American Infrastructure

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Infrastructure Act (FAST Act). It provided $305 billion to improve infrastructure safety in the United States. This stimulus program is an excellent idea in principle, but it needs better funding to make a significant difference to American infrastructure. The Fast Act puts money into the highway trust fund, but it doesn’t implement a user fee in the form of a gas tax.

Many people believe that lawmakers need to increase the gas tax to pay for continual infrastructure growth and repair. However, a gas tax increase is a hard sell in Congress because raising taxes is never a popular proposal. Some people propose increasing the gas tax on diesel fuel because trucks do the most damage to roads. Others suggest increasing the tax on alternative fuels. This is because electric cars and hybrids don’t contribute an equal amount of money for road use, as they don’t require as much gasoline.

Benefits of Investing in American Transportation Infrastructure

Investment in transportation infrastructure could boost the American economy significantly. The McKinsey Global Institute reports that an investment of 1 percent GDP would boost annual output for several industries by up to $320 billion. This would also create 1 to 2 million jobs in construction.

Modern infrastructure systems reduce the cost of doing business because they decrease the amount of time necessary to move products from one place to another. This lowers fuel expenditures and boosts overall productivity. Business Roundtable reports that an investment in transportation infrastructure is critical for international competition and improving supply chains in the United States.

The Fast Act is a good start for improving transportation infrastructure in the United States, but there’s still much more to do. A higher gas tax is one possible solution, but legislators must propose more innovative options and get support from citizens and businesses. Without a comprehensive plan, the United States will soon have thousands of unsafe bridges and roads to navigate.

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