Advocates Draw Attention to Our Nation’s Infrastructure, Which is (Still) in Bad Shape

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
May 16 2016 |
File Photo

Infrastructure Week 2016 aims to highlight all the reasons why infrastructure matters.

Labor leaders, business folks, government officials, academic types and average Americans across the country are all coming together this week to shine the spotlight on our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is among them — we are one of 150 organizations taking part in Infrastructure Week 2016. The theme this year is “Infrastructure Matters,” drawing attention to the impact that infrastructure has on our daily lives, from the roads we drive on to the energy grid that powers our homes to the pipes that supply our water to the airports that allow us to travel around the country.

America’s infrastructure certainly could use the attention — to put it mildly, it is in rough shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives it a D+ rating, and estimates $3.6 trillion would be needed by 2020 to get it to where it should be. Researchers at Duke University found that there’s a $900 billion investment backlog for transportation infrastructure across the United States.

Then there is the qualitative evidence. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx threatened last week to shut down the much-maligned D.C. Metrorail system if there weren’t immediate changes to fix safety lapses. Meanwhile, the water crisis in Flint has drawn attention to the nation’s aging pipelines.  

The time to act, it would seem, is now. And infrastructure advocates even scored a victory last year when Congress passed a $300 billion long-term transportation funding bill, authorizing six years of projects. It was the longest term highway bill in a decade.

But given America’s massive infrastructure backlog, that legislation merely should be a first step in a long, comprehensive process to rebuild America. The good news? Infrastructure investment is great for the economy — and the job market. Every $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates 21,000 jobs, and every $1 invested returns $3.50 in economic impact. A long-term bill worth $114 billion annually could create up to 2.5 million jobs.

What’s the hold up? Well, infrastructure isn’t the sexiest issue around these days. Plus, Members of Congress are hesitant to pass a big spending bill, which they fear could be politically unpopular.

That’s where Infrastructure Week comes in. This year, advocates want to show lawmakers — and candidates on the campaign trail — that infrastructure matters, and is an issue that must be at the top of the agenda come 2017.

Advocates are scheduled to lobby on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and more than 60 additional events across the country will look at how infrastructure is impacting communities nationwide. You can check out events in your community, take part in the conversation online, and find a whole lot of other ways to take part here.

Don’t forget to tell your Member of Congress to rebuild America.