Infrastructure: What Comes Next

There is a lot happening in Washington these days, but for today’s blog, I would like to talk about something near and dear to my heart: infrastructure. Earlier in August, the Senate passed the bipartisian Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, which is legislation that invests more than a trillion dollars in physical infrastructure, including road, bridge, water, port, broadband, power, and airport projects.
This is a much-needed step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go to fix our crumbling infrastructure. First, a little bit of history. I love what Henry Petroski, Aleksandar S. Vesic distinguished professor emeritus of civil engineering, Duke University, said on The Peggy Smedley Show last week. He said, “History is really important for understanding current situations.” Isn’t that true?
If you missed my podcast last week, Petroski and I talked about infrastructure—more specifically the Highway Trust Fund. He explained how the interstate highway system was established with legislation from the mid-1950s and part of that was a creation of a fund—which was going to be funded with a federal gasoline tax.
Naturally much has changed in the past 70 years, and much of the infrastructure is deteriorating—our highways, but also our bridges, dams, aviation, hazardous waste, waterways, levees, stormwater, transit, wastewater, and so much more. Earlier this year, ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) released its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. We have made some incremental progress to restore our nation’s infrastructure and that has resulted in our GPA being a C-, but our long-term investment gap continues to grow, making funding critical.
In July, the ASCE came together with other organizations to launch the Coalition for Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment, which urges Congress to move forward with infrastructure funding. The ASCE suggests we need to prioritize our nation’s infrastructure and close its estimated 10-year $2.59 trillion investment gap if we wish to remain competitive in the global marketplace and keep Americans safe.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is also part of the Coalition for Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment, applauds the Senate for passing infrastructure legislation in early August, and urges House to continue bipartisan progress. Suzanne Clark, president and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says, “Turning this long-overdue promise into a reality will grow our economy and strengthen our competitiveness for decades to come.”
While this is certainly a step in the right direction, this is only the first move. Once the construction industry receives the funding, we need to build smarter, more resilient projects, with less manpower than we have had in the past. We will need technology to accelerate building projects. We will need it to make us more efficient and productive. And we will need it to build sustainable infrastructure for future generations. Now, is the time. Are you ready?