Invest In Infrastructure to Keep Americans Safe & Put Them Back To Work
In the last week alone, millions of Americans have experienced electrical outages as power grids failed to meet demand in the midst of severe winter weather, and it is reported that nearly 12 million Texans are facing water disruptions, with officials warning residents that water supplies may be unsafe, and to boil any water used for drinking, cooking or brushing their teeth. But long before these devastating failures — and before Americans had ever heard of COVID-19 or felt the economic pain driven by this pandemic — leaders in business and government alike agreed upon the need to make a serious investment in our nation’s antiquated infrastructure.
To keep America competitive in the world and set the stage for future economic growth and job creation, we need to update our aging electrical grid, fix our crumbling roads and bridges, and make needed improvements around drinking water, aviation, broadband communications and more.
This need is made even more urgent by the economic downturn, widespread job losses and dangerous infrastructure failures Americans are experiencing today. That is why the new administration and Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — must work together to enact an ambitious investment in American infrastructure that will create jobs and get our economy moving again.
During my time as Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I worked hard to advance thoughtful, bi-partisan proposals for a 21st Century infrastructure. While we made meaningful progress, I was also frustrated by the reluctance of some elected leaders to take this priority seriously. We are already experiencing the consequences of their hesitancy.
The Federal Highway Administration reports that one in three American bridges needs to be repaired or replaced. Needless congestion on our nation’s roadways not only costs Americans valuable time, research from Texas A&M University reveals that it also comes with a price tag of nearly $180 billion per year.
When life as we knew it was disrupted last year, and countless schools and businesses went online, millions of families without access to broadband were caught in the digital divide. This meant millions of school children were unable to learn and many adults were unable to work.
It’s no wonder the American Society of Civil Engineers gives America just a D+ overall rating for our infrastructure system. Deficiencies like these sap Americans of money, economic opportunity, time and safety — and the situation will only get worse the longer we wait to act, creating a worse climate for job seekers and job creators alike. The consequences will be felt economy-wide as America falls behind rival nations, unable to compete on the global stage.
While the costs of inaction are dire, the benefits of coming together to make this needed investment in American infrastructure are clear.
Research from Georgetown University estimates an infrastructure investment of $1 trillion will net 11 million new jobs nationwide. And with infrastructure needs permeating every corner of the country, we can work to create real opportunities for the many Americans who need work and are currently being left behind.
In the long term, we will all benefit from improvements that increase reliability, efficiency and safety — as well as the prospects for untold innovations that will come when the nation puts its focus and manpower behind building for the future.
My years of work on these issues have taught me a valuable lesson that still rings true today: Responsible investments in infrastructure return real and tangible results for the American people. Thankfully, many elected officials on both sides of the political aisle agree. And, especially as millions of Americans experience first-hand the consequences of insufficient attention to infrastructure, now it is time to act.
By making an ambitious, bi-partisan investment in infrastructure without delay, Congress and the President will not only keep Americans safe from the breakdowns in power and water supply we see today, they can put Americans back to work, get our economy moving again, and set the stage for decades of growth, opportunity and global leadership for our nation.
Former U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster represented Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District for more than 17 years and was Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he spearheaded legislation aimed at strengthening U.S. infrastructure.