The yearlong election marathon ended Saturday, November 7 when former Vice President Joe Biden was projected the 46th president of the United States, with Senator Kamala Harris to serve as the next Vice President. This historic election took place at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, with COVID-19 cases soaring across the country – some states seeing the highest numbers yet, and Congress heading into a lame duck session, followed by yet another projected divided Congress in 2021.
But with another Presidential election behind us, we must turn to the issue that impacts us all each day from the moment we turn on the lights and drink that first cup of water or coffee, to miles we spend on the road taking our kids to school or driving to the store: infrastructure.
We know that both President Trump and President-Elect Biden have focused on infrastructure investment in both the Biden campaign and Trump administration. We always said that no matter the result, infrastructure investment must be a key priority in the first 100 days of the next Administration. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation was already in an infrastructure crisis. Transit systems have a backlog of $176 billion for transit investments. Americans are still experiencing blackouts, spurred by increasing severe weather. In 2019, total capital spending on water infrastructure was $81 billion short of the need. The average commuter is spending 42 hours a year – that’s nearly 2 days – stuck in traffic. 45% of our nation’s highways are in poor condition, costing each motorist $616 per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.
And while we are expected to have a divided 117th Congress, we also know that if there is anything that can bridge the partisan gap between Americans, it is reliable, safe, and high-quality infrastructure. In fact, 80% of Americans support rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure more than almost any other top issue facing the current Administration. In a recent study from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, small and large city mayors indicated that investing in infrastructure to generate jobs and economic growth is the top immediate and long-term priority for mayors.
We know that President-Elect Biden had infrastructure as pillar of his Build Back Better campaign, calling for $2 trillion of infrastructure investment over four years, focusing on speeding up the transition to cleaner energy for transportation and buildings in addition to prioritizing environmental justice. His plan quotes ASCE in several places, including the mention of ‘one in five of our nation’s highways being in poor condition’ and citing the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card schools’ grade while pushing for a multi-year national effort to modernize our schools. His plan also indicates rebuilding infrastructure from roads and bridges to green spaces and water systems, to electricity grids and broadband infrastructure – sustainably, to withstand the impacts of climate change and improve public health, including access to clean air and water.
Luckily, infrastructure is back in the spotlight. But we cannot let that momentum fade: infrastructure investment is the key to economic recovery. Speaker Pelosi also recently indicated that infrastructure will be a priority in the next Congress.
So while the 2020 election may be headed to the history books, investment in our aging ports, roads, electric grid and more is far from over. There are also several issues for Congress to address before the close of the year, including ensuring our state DOTs and transit agencies have the much-needed relief to get projects going and continue critical maintenance and passing a Water Resources Development Act.
With the release of the 2021 Infrastructure Report Card and a new Administration and Congress upon us, ASCE is eager to work with our colleagues on the Hill to ensure infrastructure is a top priority in 2021.