June 4, 2013
There are few among us fortunate enough to be able to pay cash for a brand new car or home. Not surprisingly, most people finance these big-ticket items through bank loans and mortgages they then pay off over a number of years.
The problem is, when it comes to similar long-term financing of critical infrastructure investments, voters haven’t been in a borrowing mood. This has led to a growing backlog of needed maintenance, upgrade and replacement projects nationwide.
The resulting decay caused by underinvestment is starkly documented in the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure released recently by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Issued every four years, the report card assigns letter grades to 16 key infrastructure elements such as bridges, drinking water, roads and schools.
ASCE’s 2013 assessment provides a sobering look at the current state of our nation’s underpinnings: Eleven sectors were tagged with D+ to D- grades; four were deemed worthy of C+ to C- grades; and only one sector – solid waste – managed a respectable B- grade.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Increased voter support of local and state bond referendums – many of which are amplified by generous federal matching funds – would go a long way toward cleaning up the backlog. What’s more, with interest rates at historic lows, financing the cost of building new or upgrading existing infrastructure is as cheap as it will ever be.
Deferred maintenance is always the most expensive choice. Now is the time to make important investments in America’s crumbling infrastructure and, by extension, our future.