The U.S. Must Invest In Infrastructure

Mark Laluan

Between increasing vitriolic debates ranging from national defense to health reform, our elected officials have remained silent regarding improvements to America’s transportation infrastructure.

America’s National Highway System had its last major expansion undertaken under the Eisenhower Administration of the 1950s. While Americans have continued to rely on this increasingly dilapidated system of roads, bridges and highways, across the world states such as China have embarked upon full overhauls of their transportation systems.

China’s National Trunk Highway System recently surpassed the American automobile based network with over 74,000 km of roads laid down. In addition, China has nearly quadrupled its railway network since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 to over 91,000 km of rail lines.

These transportation networks are the arteries that supply the raw materials and transport the finished goods that fuel China’s growth. Whereas China has worked to expand her transportation network, America remains content to sit on an increasingly hazardous network.

In 2007, the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minnesota serves as a chilling reminder of what has become willing neglect of America’s transportation system. A bridge which was declared “structurally deficient” by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2005 was passed over for replacement.

When the bridge collapsed under the weight of rush hour traffic, refurbishment focusing on replacing guard rails and pavement was underway. Vital retrofitting to the bridge’s support structure would not be addressed in these repairs.

The result of such lackadaisical maintenance was a tragedy which claimed the lives of thirteen individuals and put an entire bus full of school children at risk of grave injury.

The I-35W Mississippi River Bridge is symptomatic of an entire transportation system woefully neglected by our public officials. Democrats would rather spend trillions exclusively on social welfare programs such as socialized medicine, and Republicans have continued to harp almost exclusively on the need to decrease spending in all areas including infrastructure spending.

Thus both major parties are unable to present a cohesive program to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, railways and airports. These vital links that enable the free flow of goods and services from one end of the country to the other impact the quality of life of all Americans.

We suggest that local, state and federal officials make transportation reform an honest priority. New forays into the Middle East—such as intervention in Libya—or costly social welfare programs—such as socialized medicine—have served to divide our nation’s focus at a time when rebuilding our transportation infrastructure is crucial for the revival of our flagging economy.

We believe that while a measured response to foreign crises and the plight of medically uninsured is necessary, we also believe that it is crucial to ensure our transportation network functions to benefit economic expansion.

America depends on tax revenues from businesses as well as individuals to pay for national defense as well as social programs. Without an efficient transportation network, there will be no effective method to control the cost of living by shipping goods such as food to areas of the country where they are most needed.

Nor will America be in any shape to provide an appealing place for business to grow, develop and mature without a transportation network to ship goods upon.

More railways, roads, bridges and airports translates into more capacity for rapid transportation, which in the long run means lower fuel costs. This translates into real savings for the average consumer as businesses pass on the savings in overhead expenses to the consumer.

America is not awash with cash as pundit Michael Moore would have one believe. Our wealth and our capital are being tied up in overseas military adventures, social welfare programs and pork barrel spending, not in the hands of American citizens, rich or poor.

Reigning in such largess is the one step towards kick starting American economy. The second and equally crucial step would be to invest in a new transportation infrastructure, which can safely and effectively serve America’s economic needs well into the future.