The average household would save $9.31 a day by 2025, by one estimate, if the federal government fixed deteriorating roads, public transit, and other infrastructure. But as President Trump prepares a $1 trillion package to address the need, there are big divisions over how to fund it.
Everyone agrees the $19.5 trillion US economy needs roads, bridges, railways, communications, and other modern infrastructure to run smoothly. But when these deteriorate, safety suffers and costs rise.
But the US has been underfunding infrastructure maintenance for years. Already, 1 in 5 miles of highway is in poor condition; 2 in 5 miles of urban Interstates are congested, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Four out of 5 major US airports could soon see Thanksgiving-like peak traffic at least once a week.
Internationally, the US ranks ninth among nations for overall infrastructure, but 26th for the quality of its electrical supply. Overall, the ASCE gives US infrastructure a ‘D-plus.’
Where is the problem worst?
“All of the above,” says Jacob Leibenluft, senior adviser at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington. In the ASCE’s report last year, only the rail system rated a “B,” and that’s due in part to freight railroads funding their own maintenance. Every other category rated a “C-plus” or worse. Public transit earned a “D-minus.”
Part of the problem is that the US spends about 2.4 percent of gross domestic product on infrastructure, whereas 5 percent is the norm in Europe, and China spends 9 percent, the Business Roundtable points out. That “deficit” grows yearly as infrastructure ages and the backlog of unfunded projects grows.