Failure to Act

Sept. 29, 2020
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“Failure to Act” is the title of a preliminary report completed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) analyzing the “effect that transportation deficiencies have, and will continue to have, on U.S. economic performance.” This extremely detailed analysis is focused on two primary topics. The first, what the country is currently spending on roads and transit systems, and second, what we need to be spending to return these systems to a state of good repair.

I don’t need to remind anyone reading this of the dire situation we face with regard to the nation’s infrastructure. The passing of time continues to degrade the situation and now we must once again face the realities of not being able to find a way to fund infrastructure necessities. That is what the ASCE has taken upon itself to help us do, face the realities.

The opening paragraphs to the preliminary report strike a familiar chord to notes we’ve been hearing but now they are sounding much more sour. The ASCE writes:

“The nation’s surface transportation infrastructure includes the critical highways, bridges, and transit systems that enable access to markets, employment, community services, and the economic engines that drive American GDP. For many years, the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure has been underfunded and continues to experience deterioration, in both its condition and its capacity to perform.

Moreover, even where conditions are now stable, backlogs are growing, potentially signaling future decline. Because this deterioration and accumulating backlog have been diffused throughout the nation and has occurred gradually over time, its true costs and economic impacts are not always immediately apparent. In practice, the transportation funding that is appropriated is spent on a mixture of preservation projects and select system expansions. While these allocations have often been sufficient to avoid imminent failure of key facilities, the continued deterioration leaves a significant and mounting burden on the U.S. economy.”

The final line is emphasized in bold lettering. In essence, we have been able to continue to tread water but that does not mean drowning is out of the question. Check out the ASCE’s “Failure to Act: Current Investment Trends in Our Surface Transportation Infrastructure.” The amount of detail and insight to be gleaned is astonishing. The report includes (as the title infers) current investment trends and expands on them to the year 2039. It has information on how household incomes to overall economic competitiveness will be affected.