As readers of this blog are aware, we have been highlighting articles which emphasize the critical need to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure. There is an undisputed link between a nation’s infrastructure and its economic competitiveness. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issued a study on July 27, 2011, which reports that the deteriorating streets, highways, bridges, railways, and public transportation systems cost the United States $129 billion a year. Not only does the ASCE give the U.S. infrastructure a failing grade of D-, it now has a study that indicates that if improvements are not made to the decaying roads, bridges, railways, and transportation systems, it will cost businesses $430 billion a year within a decade. This is the first time that data has been collected showing how the failure to invest in the surface transportation system negatively impacts job growth and family budgets.
Last week, Congress proved incapable of passing even a simple extension of the current funding levels for long-term aviation needs. Funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expired in 2007. Since then, Congress passed a simple extension of current funding levels 20 times. The FAA partially shut down on July 22, 2011, leaving contractors unpaid and creating chaos and turmoil in the wake of this irresponsible congressional inaction. The ASCE Report provides statistical data indicating that America’s economic recovery and long-term competitiveness will suffer if as a country we continue to under invest in the future (infrastructure). The decision facing politicians is not a simple one. Simply slashing investments without regard to the impact that a failure to invest in infrastructure will bring is short-sided. The cost of a crumbling transportation system will mean that businesses will have to divert increasing portions of earned income to pay for transportation delays and vehicle repairs, draining money that would otherwise be invested in innovation and expansion. (Steven Landau of Boston’s Economic Development Research Group did the research for ASCE.)