The long and protracted debate over the federal budget and the future of the Affordable Care Act has relegated many compelling public-policy issues to the back of the federal legislative burner.
Among the most pressing is action to ensure America’s crumbling infrastructure does not continue its rapid deterioration to the point at which public safety becomes seriously compromised. Americans concerned about the quality and reliability of their roads, bridges, water systems and energy networks should not have to tolerate such neglect and inaction.
Congress — particularly those obstinate Republicans that have been more concerned with their impossible dream of repealing Obamacare than in ensuring the continued operation of critical government services — must make a quick reality check on the decay of infrastructure throughout the nation, then take the bold and necessary actions to repair and update it.
HOW SERIOUS IS THE DECAY?
They need not look far for credible evidence of the seriousness of the decay. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its 2013 Report Card on America’s infrastructure, gives the nation a D+ grade on the quality of its infrastructure.
Singling out the state of Ohio, the ASCE reports that 42 percent of Ohio’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing Buckeye State motorists $1.68 million a year to repair, or $212 per driver. It also reports Ohio needs an infusion of $28.8 billion to adequately repair its water and water treatment systems. Of Ohio’s 27,045 bridges, 2,462 are ranked structurally deficient.
Another recent analysis from the Associated Press of 607,380 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory showed that 7,795 bridges nationwide are structurally deficient and so-called fracture critical bridges, meaning they are in danger of collapse. Of those, 421 are in Ohio.
Such data should open the eyes and ears of congressional representatives, who thus far have largely ignored repeated appeals from President Barack Obama to enact programs to stimulate infrastructure repair. Most of them come with with the added benefit of job creation.
The need for federal help is great. Tight budgets on state and local levels have hampered maintenance significantly. The Ohio County Engineers Association estimates, for example, that it would cost an additional $700 million to take care of the backlog of bridge projects alone in the state.
OBAMA’S REASONABLE APPEALS
Earlier this year, Obama called on Congress to seriously consider a series of infrastructure stimuli, including creation of a $10 billion infrastructure bank to serve as seed money for needed state and local projects. The president suggested there was a bipartisan consensus for his proposals, noting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the nation’s largest labor organization both back infrastructure spending.
“If you’ve got the Chamber and the unions agreeing, then the politicians should be able to agree, too,” Obama said.
While the president’s premise sounds rational, it has met with resistance and stonewalling from the irrational antics of an increasingly do-nothing Congress.
“What are we waiting for? There’s work to be done, there’s workers that are ready to do it,” Obama said. “Let’s prove to the world that there’s no better place to be than the United States of America.”
In the name of public safety and America’s greatness, it’s long past time for Congress to heed the president’s call.