President Trump keeps announcing different Infrastructure Week initiatives in order to highlight America’s crumbling infrastructure. However, there is still no clear plan. In May, it was announced that House Democrats and the White House had agreed to a $2 Trillion plan. However, when the President arrived to have that conversation he walked out of the meeting because Speaker Pelosi had told the press corps that he was participating in “a cover-up” just hours before. He came in, told the Democrats to stop these needless investigations and that he wasn’t interested in doing business until they stopped investigating him. It looks like our roads and bridges will just have to hang on until some point in the future when both sides can agree to work together.
To celebrate the many infrastructure weeks, here at Rouges, we’ve decided to have an infrastructure week of our own. Throughout the week we have a series of posts highlighting our crumbling infrastructure and how we might begin to fix it.
America is a Large Country
America has 4,071,000 miles (6,552,000 km) of roads in the United States, 2,678,000 miles(4,310,000 km) paved and 1,394,000 miles(2,243,000 km) unpaved. According to the Infrastructure Report Card: The U.S. has 614,387 bridges, almost four in 10 of which are 50 years or older. 56,007 — 9.1% — of the nation’s bridges were structurally deficient in 2016, and on average there were 188 million trips across a structurally deficient bridge each day.
That doesn’t even begin the conversation about water pipes, internet, airports, dams, rivers, levees, or railways. All of these hard assets that we use almost every day create the modern country that we are used to living in. In the 1930s-1950s we built masses of things like dams, bridges, and the modern interstate system. However, that build-out is reaching the end of its useful life. It’s time to tear that out and start over.
How Do We Fix the Roads?
The solutions are fairly clear: fix the problems. But the reality is that it will take quite a bit of money from the federal, state, and local governments. All of these institutions are increasingly cash strapped. Why is that? Raising taxes on regular working people is incredibly unpopular. The fastest way for any politicians to be quickly out of office is to raise taxes. That would certainly explain why the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 and sits at 18 cents per gallon. State and local governments have raised the gas tax themselves up to about 34 cents per gallon. The federal gas tax funds the national highway trust which is slowly running out of money to fund projects throughout the country. This has led some to say that we need another solution other than more taxes.
A Private Sector Solution?
One of the modern ways to raise money for projects is to sell off public assets like roads, airports, and other large assets to private companies who exploit them for profit. Companies lose money when the infrastructure is not working well.
Do We Really Want to Pay Companies to Drive?
Selling off these assets leads money flows out of the public sector and into the pockets of private individuals who may or may not end up paying taxes. This further strangles local governments and doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes.
This week, we’ll continue to dig into this problem with clever articles and videos on the topic.