The United States’ failing infrastructure system is costing the country billions of dollars every year, according to a report released on Wednesday.
A professional group whose members are responsible for designing and building the nation’s roads, bridges, railroads and transit systems, among other things, conducted a report for the American Society of Civil Engineers and found the country’s decaying infrastructure system was costing $129 billion a year. Of that, infrastructure deficiencies contributed to a loss of $97 billion, which in turn caused travel delays and another $32 billion in lost savings.
“If investments in surface transportation infrastructure are not made soon, these costs are expected to grow exponentially,” the ASCE said. “Within 10 years, U.S. businesses would pay an added $430 billion in transportation costs, household incomes would fall by more than $7,000 and U.S. exports will fall by $28 billion.”
The ASCE report follows a growing list of reports that have said the same thing: the United States needs to upgrade its 60-year-old highway system and rail lines. A report the Urban Land Institute released in May showed the United States was falling behind Brazil, China and India in its infrastructure system. It also showed that in order for the country to have the transportation systems catch up to travel demands, as much as $262 billion a year needed to be spent on U.S. highways, rail networks and air transportation systems.
However, with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives wanting massive spending cuts to reduce the nation’s debt and deficit, getting that amount of money is unlikely to be approved. President Barack Obama has called for improvements and investments to the nation’s infrastructure system – saying it also would be a way to create thousands of jobs – but Republicans have scoffed at that idea so far. The president and other Democrats even have called for a new national infrastructure bank that would be created solely to provide funding for infrastructure projects and improvements.
When it comes to surface transportation, for example, House Republicans favor a six-year plan that would provide about $35 billion a year and could grow to $75 billion through a variety of options including public-private partnerships; however, Senate Democrats, want a two-year plan that would provide about $109 billion – that proposal has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate.
Despite the Republican pushback, though, Democrats said the ASCE report was proof that the United States needed to invest in its failing infrastructure system.
“Today’s report provides the cold hard truth that America’s economic recovery and long-term competitiveness will suffer if we continue to under-invest in our future,” Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-W.Va.), the ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, said. “Slashing investments by one-third, as Republicans have proposed to do, will make the economic impact on America’s middle class even worse than the grim predictions by the economists in this report.”
To bolster the Democrats’ claims that the infrastructure system was vital to the nation’s economy, the ASCE report also predicted that without investments to infrastructure, 870,000 jobs would be lost and economic growth would be reduced by about $3.1 trillion by 2020 – that could be avoided though by investing about $1.7 trillion by 2020 and closing the $94 billion a year gap between what is being spent on infrastructure now to what needs to be spent.
“The link between a nation’s infrastructure and its economic competitiveness has always been understood,” ASCE President Kathy Caldwell said. “But today, for the first time, we have data showing how much failing to invest in our surface transportation system can negatively impact job growth and family budgets.”
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