Our nation's roads and bridges are used continuously, 24/7. Although they are vital to public safety, the economy and national security, not much thought is given to them until something goes wrong. Everything is fine until a pothole causes a flat tire, or a traffic jam results in lost business. Unfortunately, poor investments and years of neglect have made this all too common.
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made a strong national infrastructure plan one of his top priorities for his final two years in office. This initiative should be applauded. Few federal expenditures yield a better return on taxpayer's dollars. President Obama should work with Congress to produce a sustainably funded, multi-year plan to fix our transportation system.
"Nearly 71 percent of U.S. roads are graded fair to poor," said James G. Toscas, President and Chief Executive Officer at Portland Cement Association (PCA). "This is certainly not worthy of a global leader like the U.S, and the trend will get worse without an investment -- the right kind of investment -- in our nation's infrastructure. It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure that needs to be repaired after less than 10 years when we know how to build sustainable, resilient structures that last for decades."
PCA has long supported a nationwide plan to reconstruct our crumbling roads and bridges. The Association strongly believes that to achieve a sound investment of taxpayer dollars, legislation should be passed that authorizes infrastructure construction and rehabilitation using durable and resilient materials.
Investing in our nation's infrastructure helps the U.S. economy. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that an appropriate level of investment in public infrastructure could increase jobs by almost 1.3 million, grow real GDP 2.9 percent, and see an increase in American take-home pay after taxes. According to NAM, the current approach to maintaining our infrastructure is not sufficient to achieve these results.
Toscas notes that selecting the right materials to construct a road or bridge saves money in the long run by assuring a long service life. On average, concrete roads and bridges perform nearly 30 years before requiring major rehabilitation. Over a highway's life, this could amount to billions of dollars saved compared to short-lived pavement systems.
Concrete pavements can also result in an overall reduction of vehicle emissions to the environment. "We burn more than 174 billion gallons of fuel each year for transportation in the U.S., which is responsible for 27 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions," said Toscas. "And research from MIT makes clear how fuel economy is affected by pavement: more rigid pavement--like that made from concrete -- provides better fuel economy. This is a win-win opportunity."
The need for legislation is clear, and the time for Congress to act is now. Political will is needed to reinvigorate our roads and the economy. "Congress needs to stop neglecting our roads and bridges and live up to its role as steward of our nation's critical infrastructure," advised Toscas. "With the improving economy, the demand on our transportation infrastructure will rise to new heights. We can't continue with a 'business-as-usual' approach and allow one of our nation's most important strategic assets to further degrade just when it's needed most."