By: Kevin Tang
In the late 19th century, American infrastructure dramatically developed to become powerful facilitators of the economy, integrating domestic markets and increasing commerce. But today, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has reported on the current state of infrastructure in 2017 to present the United States with a nearly-failing grade: D+.
The nation’s oldest engineering organization, the ASCE, comprises of more than 150,000 members. Together, they advocate for the maintenance of infrastructure and publish “report cards” that examine the condition of the country’s infrastructure every four years. In these evaluations are comprehensive examinations of the 16 types of infrastructure that range from roads to aviation to energy to schools. The key criteria that make up the final grade are condition, public safety, innovation, etc.
Although a D+ appears to be a poor grade, it is actually a slight improvement over the past years which were mostly given D’s. Since the first ASCE report in 1998, the highest overall grade has been a D+ and none of the infrastructure categories have scored above a B. While it is true that America spends around $40 billion on infrastructure annually, it still remains true that only a third of the nation’s roads are in “good condition.” To remediate these issues, the ASCE projects that another $4.59 trillion is necessary. This amount of money for repair will only continue to increase if the glaring problem is left alone.
While one cause is the lack of funds towards infrastructure, another is poor planning. Every year, our nation spends around $20.4 billion to construct new infrastructure that accounts for less than 1% of the total; however, for the other 99%, the United States only spends $16.5 billion to maintain and repair the rest. This mismanagement of funds and lack of forethought continues to exacerbate the issue.
This not only worsens public safety and increases inefficiency, but also drags down the economy. Without the necessary funds directed towards infrastructure, the country could potentially shed 2.5 million jobs and $4 trillion from the nation’s GDP. This costs the average American family “$3,400 dollars a year,” ASCE explains.
To fix these problems, America must allocate the necessary $4.59 trillion to infrastructure while also ensuring that most of this money spent is on maintenance and repair rather than construction of new roads. This smarter distribution of resources will allow the nation to fix its current issues instead of creating future issues. Already in the past years, the nation has been making slow but steady progress as nearly half of the 16 categories of infrastructure are being improved.
One way President Trump looks to add to America's infrastructure is with his border wall. With a $70 billion wall spanning 1,000 miles built between the United States and Mexico, he predicts that illegal immigration will decrease. However, some argue that the almost $1 trillion wall would be an inefficient use of money as “infrastructure”.
Although border apprehensions decrease in areas with fences or walls, there may be other factors that contribute to the reduction instead. For instance, as new fencing was constructed, there was also an increase in border guards at the same time. Even if the wall does deter would-be migrants, there are still other ways to bypass it. From 2007 to 2010, officials have reported at least one tunnel a month. In addition, the wall would not impede people from flying over the wall into the United States as many overstay legal visas.
However, the Trump administration has other plans. Looking to fulfill campaign promises of creating more jobs for the American people, they have already announced a plan that would dedicate a trillion dollars to create a public-private national infrastructure project reminiscent of Roosevelt's New Deal that would provide "millions" of jobs.
Although it is still less than a quarter of what is necessary and no detailed plan has been released yet, it is a step in the right direction. Only can persistence and more resources solve the historical and current infrastructure problem.