In 2007, the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis during evening rush hour. 13 people died, and 145 were injured. It wasn’t the first time that a collapse on one of our roadways led to a loss of life. But this high-profile incident set off a firestorm of news coverage and national soul-searching about the worsening state of American infrastructure.
Failing To Make The Grade
Despite increased awareness, our infrastructure hasn’t improved much in the last ten years.
The American Society of Civil Engineers released a report card in 2017 grading the country’s infrastructure. The final score: D+. This score is identical to the previous score released in 2013.
The Costs of America’s Failing Infrastructure
Studies show that aging infrastructure is costing Americans $3400 per year in disposal income. Time is another factor. The economy loses billions of dollars as people sit in traffic or wait for delayed shipments.
But as the Mississippi River Bridge collapse taught us, the costs go far beyond lost money and missed work. The federal Department of Transportation estimates that poor road designs are a factor in about 14,000 highway deaths each year. Taken together with the total number of traffic fatalities, this places the United States nearly last among high-income nations in annual traffic deaths.
There are some solutions for tackling this problem. Experts recommend constructing more roundabouts, sidewalks, and median barriers. And increasing the number of rumble strips would prevent more motorists from drifting off the road due to inattention. These improvements have the potential to save 63,700 lives and prevent 353,560 serious injuries over 20 years.
Is Help On The Way?
But American infrastructure goes beyond bridges and roads. Dams, gas pipes, and waterworks all urgently need repair and replacement, too.
To that end, President Trump submitted a budget proposal in May that provided increased funding for infrastructure improvements. The plan calls for using $200 billion in government spending to leverage $800 billion in local and private investment over 10 years.
$1 trillion in infrastructure funding has the potential to give a big boost to the construction industry. The influx of new public works projects would create jobs for tradespeople, construction laborers, and transportation workers. In total, the plan could create as many as 11 million jobs through 2027.
So far the president’s plan is facing delays, though. Congress is clamoring for more details. Some policymakers are demanding assurances that the plan will directly fund new projects rather than tax credits for investment only.
Hopefully, business leaders and voters will remember the lessons of the Mississippi River Bridge collapse. Because if policymakers don’t come up with a funding solution soon, the economy will continue to suffer, and more Americans will die in preventable accidents.
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