“Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country…” – President Barack Obama
Across the country, our infrastructure is badly in need of repair: we are running out of time to fix it.
Much of our interstate highway system was built more than 50 years ago. The roads and bridges are at the end of their life cycle – and pose a serious threat to public safety.
Traffic congestion costs the average American over $800 per year. Cracked, crumbling roads that damage vehicles and contribute to car accidents are taking another $400 per year.
Since the federal government has not been funding the maintenance of our infrastructure, states have had to take on the burden. But states have different, inherently local interests that don’t lead to well-defined, long-term transportation goals.
Now states are spending their federal highway funding on building new roadways – in some cases, regardless of the need– instead of repairing and maintaining the existing roads. Expanding highways while neglecting maintenance on existing highways is a fundamentally flawed plan that will result in thousands more miles of dangerous, unmaintained roads.
The estimated cost to rebuild – not even grow – our infrastructure is to invest about $ 2 trillion over the next decade. If we don’t make the investment, our infrastructure deficiencies will cost the U.S. 3.5 million jobs and nearly $1 trillion a year in lost business sales.
Investing in the roads, railways, and bridges in poor condition will create jobs where they are badly needed, help businesses move products more effectively, creates long-term transportation stability, and keeps us safer.
Interest rates are at historic lows right now, and millions of construction workers are available. We have a small window of opportunity – what The Washington Post referred to as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges more or less for free…”
In fact, the “Fix it First” program may be too late. We have put off infrastructure maintenance for so long that we may be stuck with a much worse problem than just a repair backlog. Congress hasn’t funded infrastructure projects with regularity over the last decade; there is some speculation that the Fix-it-First program Obama proposed won’t make it out of the House of Representatives.