Throughout history successful countries have invested in both their military and infrastructure. A strong military provides for the common defence, while a sound infrastructure raises the standard of living for its inhabitants.
The US’s commitment to these priorities helped it rise from former British colony to the world’s lone super power. Yet, while its military is today unrivalled, according to the 2017 American Civil Society of Engineers’ (ACSE) report, the country’s infrastructure earned a D+ grade, and has a US$2 trillion infrastructure investment gap over the next decade. Since ACSE’s report first came out in 2001, the US has nearly received a failing grade every time.
There is long-standing, bipartisan agreement that the US’s infrastructure must be repaired and upgraded, but Congress keeps kicking the can down the road. However, we might be poised for a breakthrough in 2019. After all, President Donald Trump is on record saying: “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land. And we will do it with American heart, and American hands, and American grit.” That sentiment is matched by House Democrats who, during their successful 2018 midterm election campaigns, made tackling infrastructure a top priority.
Unfortunately, the same vexing question that bedevilled previous efforts remains: how do we pay for it? The Portland Cement Association (PCA) supports whatever funding mechanisms federal officials can agree upon, including raising the federal gas tax, which last occurred in 1993. Even that legislative initiative was flawed, because according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if the gas tax had been tied to inflation it would be 19 cents higher right now.
Even if a big-ticket infrastructure package never materialises, there are plenty of opportunities for the most resilient and prevalent construction material in the world: concrete. PCA is focused on creating an efficient and well-functioning transportation network that meets our needs and positions the US economy for robust growth. For real progress to be made, revenue shortfalls in existing programmes must be addressed before it is too late.
Infrastructure also includes airports, waterways, and buildings. Over the past several years, there has been a significant growth in the intensity of natural disasters, ranging from wildfires to hurricanes, that are devastating communities. Instead of always reacting to these events, why not be more proactive? For example, Russell King relied on resilient construction materials like concrete to build his home in Mexico Beach, Florida. When Hurricane Michael tore through the town last year, King’s home was the last one left standing. His personal mitigation effort needs to be brought to the masses.
That is why PCA supports providing communities the resources and tools to enhance the resiliency of their buildings and the infrastructure to increase their durability, longevity, disaster resistance, and safety. Enhanced resilient construction will improve sustainability and reduce the resources needed to rebuild in the future. In the last Congress, PCA supported the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), which addresses the rising costs of disasters and reforms the federal disaster programme by investing in pre-disaster mitigation.
America must invest more resources in our infrastructure, otherwise we will not be able to meet the demands of our growing population and an interconnected world in the 21st Century. Delays only exacerbate the problem. We need our political leaders to rise to the challenge, as they have done in the past, even during the most trying of times. It is what successful countries do.
About the author
Michael Ireland is President and CEO of the Portland Cement Association.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/special-reports/03042019/the-future-of-us-infrastructure/
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