The Transportation Infrastructure Crisis In America’s Future

The United States became the nation it is today because of the development of transportation infrastructure, highlighted by the transcontinental railroad system in the middle and late 19th century, and the interstate highway system of the middle and late 20th century, along with the growth of cities and mass transit.

Now, a century and more later, with growing population and the aging of the infrastructure, there is a dire need for renovation and rehabilitation of our transportation network, but the cost will be substantial, and the trend is toward delay and avoidance of the responsibility of our government at all levels to deal with the essential rebuilding and expansion of our transportation network.

With the Republicans in control in the House, it seems as if there will be major cuts in spending on infrastructure, estimated to be a one third cut on interstate highways and mass transit, and attempting to end federal support of the Amtrak train system in the Northeastern United States.

It is estimated by experts that $1 trillion needs to be spent on maintenance and growing demand with increased population, and this does not include the estimated $2 trillion necessary to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems, and dams that have reached the normal level of longevity. These estimates do not even include the cost of air transportation investments for the long term future.

The US is way behind investment in the area of infrastructure, as compared to Russia, China, India, and Brazil, and the economic competition of the future will be shaped by decisions made now, often in a short sighted momentary way, to our tremendous need for investment in large amounts.

Are we again to wait until there is a literal short term crisis to react to the reality of what needs to be done? Is the answer just to patch up with band aids, rather than to face the responsibility of dealing with the future now, rather than later, when it will be more expensive?

The reality is that lack of action will cause state and local governments to raise sales and property taxes to deal with what the federal government has reneged on, and it will also lead to more privatization of services, which will also cause much higher taxation down the road, no pun intended!

There is an old saying that applies here: “Penny wise, Pound foolish”!