Infrastructure is essential for every family, community, and business to function. It encompasses everything from the water that comes out of your faucet to the Hoover Dam; from the road in your neighborhood to our expansive interstate highway network. Planes, trains, ports, the electric grid, solid way conveyance - it all falls under the umbrella of infrastructure. It is the foundation that connects society, driving the economy and improving our quality of life.
Nevertheless, infrastructure is often an afterthought. It is a given that we can flip a switch, buy staple goods at any time, or rely on timely arrival and departures of multi-modal transportation. The frank truth is that most of us do not think about our dependance on infrastructure until we experience a disruption.
Yet, there are signs of chronic strain on our infrastructure. In order to gauge this strain, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a Report Card for America’s Infrastructure every three years. The grades posted in the Report Card communicate a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions across the United States. As outlined by the ASCE, these infrastructure conditions have considerable economic impacts.
The most recent (2013) Report Card paints a bleak picture.
In aggregate, the ASCE Report Card puts America's GPA in the D+ range. According to ASCE, our country needs to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020 in order to improve the various sectors of America's infrastructure. We know that investing in infrastructure is critical to for human health and vibrant communities. Infrastructure is also essential for long-term economic growth, increasing gross domestic product, employment, household income, and exports. Conversely, without prioritizing America’s infrastructure needs, deteriorating conditions will, at a minimum, stymie the economy. At worse, a poor or failing infrastructure presents an immediate and long-term risk to human health, safety, and welfare.
Our infrastructure is an incredible endowment from generations prior and it would be a tragedy to allow it to continue deteriorating. We must commit today to keep pace with the current and expanding needs of a growing population - and do so in a resilient manner.