When it comes to maintaining and improving its roads, bridges and other transportation facilities, the United States is falling behind even developing nations and Congress is showing no will to address the crisis, according to a report released this week by the Urban Land Institute. Further:
Despite the nation’s unemployment woes, the vast job-creation potential of infrastructure projects is being sidetracked by concerns about government spending appetites and potential cost overruns.
In contrast with its global competition, the report notes, after more than 30 years of conspicuously underfunding infrastructure,
the United States is lurching along a problematic course — potentially losing additional ground.
So far, Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans levee breach have not been a big enough wakeup call; neither was the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse, according to Infrastructure 2011: A Strategic Priority. Meanwhile, China is moving closer to completing the world’s largest high-speed train network, a 10,000-mile honeycomb linking major cities across an expanse similar in size to the United States. But the high-speed train is only a small part of a
trillion-dollar splurge that is also constructing a nationwide tolled highway system, comparable to U.S. interstates; 1,900 miles of new urban integrated transport systems in the world. If all this domestic infrastructure activity is not enough, China also has ambitions to build high-speed rail lines across Asia and India, ultimately connecting to Europe’s systems.
Even the United Kingdom, with its severe austerity budget, has committed $326 billion over the next five years to continue national infrastructure projects focused on rail, energy production and broadband access.
Meanwhile, U.S. residents are literally left in the dust of crumbling facilities with some areas likely to abandon services in certain districts, the report forsees.
In lightly traveled rural areas, transportation departments may let some blacktopped roads go back to nature.
America’s 15 million unemployed workers need jobs. The nation needs to repair its bridges and road and invest in high-tech solutions for the future. So why is it so hard for lawmakers to connect the two?
Instead, Republicans in Congress are doing just the opposite. The Republican budget proposal pushed by Wis. Rep. Paul Ryan includes cuts to transporation that are “especially irresponsible, given the demonstrated ability of transportation investments to create and sustain millions of good jobs,” says AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Edward Wytkind. Ryan’s budget is a
blueprint to ruin the nation’s already failing transportation system. It is a recipe for massive job loss, reflects a total disregard for the needs of Americans who continue to suffer under high unemployment, and destroys any hope that America will finally address the well-documented deterioration of our transportation system and infrastructure.
As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says:
Successful job creation is the key to deficit reduction over the medium term. We must commit to the sizeable and sustained level of public investment needed to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and schools and prepare our country for the next generation. From technology to education, investments today will make responsible fiscal balance achievable and — most important — create good jobs for America’s workers and help us win the future.
This post was originally published on the AFL-CIO’s blog.