For 45 years as a city planner/community-economic development professional and consultant I helped largely small towns and rural communities across the Pacific Northwest update or expand their human, physical and social capital (or soft and hard infrastructure systems).
Today Congress is debating whether all of America (rich and poor) should have access to affordable and high-quality infrastructure through the proposed American Infrastructure and Jobs Plan. What we know is that America has not adequately reinvested in most infrastructure systems since World War II. Unlike Europe and Japan that were rebuilt post war and newer industrial nations like China, India, Indonesia, and Korea the U.S. has not keep pace with population growth or technological innovations that place new and larger demands on all forms of our societal infrastructure. Speed, safety and dramatically increasing maintenance costs are rising challenges.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our “hard” infrastructure price tag is at least $2.6 trillion by 2025 alone (and we certainly need equal investments in such social systems as childcare, early childhood education, etc.). They also estimate that if not invested we could lose $4 trillion in gross domestic product. McKinsey researchers project that $150 billion per year is needed between 2017 and 2030 to adequately maintain our country’s “hard” infrastructure. Some studies already show current negative annual economic impacts such as traffic congestion costing our economy $120 billion annually; delays or avoided trips to airports another $35 billion; deficiencies in our rail system at $30 billion, etc.
The electricity and water events of last February’s brief freeze in Texas that impacted 4.5 million homes and businesses is just one example of the high cost of doing nothing. I pray Congress finds the will to act.
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