As the U.S. government continues to operate under a do-nothing Congress, some more optimistic citizens might be tempted to think that an unproductive Congress can, at the very least, do no harm. For many reasons, this is not true. From the lack of a farm bill to the inability to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner, Congress’ inability to find compromise and pass necessary bills has hurt the country in innumerable ways. One of these ways, which has extreme consequences despite its lack of media coverage, is the failure to provide much needed investments in general infrastructure across the country.
According to a study done by the Urban Land Institute, which was reported on by the Washington Post last year, the U.S. needs to invest $2 trillion into rebuilding everything from roads and bridges to sewage systems and water lines, which are approaching the end of their expected lifetime.
Minnesotans have unfortunately experienced the result of inadequate and failing infrastructure firsthand. The collapse of the original Interstate 35W bridge in 2007 that resulted in 13 deaths was a preventable tragedy that mustn’t be repeated.
However, if Congress continues to ignore decaying federal infrastructure and foregoing the needed revamp in investments, more problems will inevitably arise. Just months ago, Superstorm Sandy exposed our aging electrical grid, which the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a D+ in 2009. While more affluent Americans are able to purchase high-powered generators and other expensive remedies for our failing infrastructure problems, our need to rebuild public electrical, water and transportation systems persists.
The longer Congress waits to rebuild decaying roads, bridges, wires and water mains, the more expensive it will become. Eventually, as Minnesota saw in 2007, the problem will be impossible to ignore.