SPEED THE RECOVERY: INVEST IN INFRASTRUCTURE
Work like this lowers unemployment, strengthens imfrastructure, and spurs economic growth.
February 7, 2013: The past few months have been somewhat encouraging for construction workers and contractors. We appear to be headed into a recovery, with greater demand for construction services, and more projects being bid. Yet as Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) General President Terry O’Sullivan reminds us, there is still a long way to go, and a lot of work that could be done. Commenting on the federal government’s January jobs report, O’Sullivan said:
Fundamentally, America is facing two problems, high unemployment and decaying infrastructure, both of which can be addressed by investing in our nation’s critical infrastructure systems at the rate needed to meet current demands.
O’Sullivan and LIUNA are among the many leaders and organizations calling for greater infrastructure investment. Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Puentes recently challenged President Obama to be more like predecessor Dwight Eisenhower and “make smart and strategic investments in infrastructure both to support jobs in the short term and to build a productive economy for the long haul.”
Those who would argue that this desire to invest in infrastructure must take a back seat to debt reduction might want to peruse the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) recently released report, Failure to Act: the Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future. According to the report, the latest in a series of Failure to Act publications, “deteriorating infrastructure. . . has a cascading impact on the nation’s economy, negatively affecting business productivity, gross domestic product (GDP), employment, personal income, and international competitiveness.”
ASCE’s bottom-line numbers are staggering: if we remain on our current course, the gap between infrastructure investment and infrastructure needs will reach $1.1 trillion by 2020. Over that same period, our aging and unreliable infrastructure is likely to cost businesses $1.2 trillion, and households $655 billion. ASCE estimates that a continued failure to act will lead to a $3.1-trillion drop in gross domestic product (GDP), a $2.4-trillion drop in consumer spending, a $1.1-trillion loss in total trade, and the loss of 3.5 million jobs. These long-term losses would far outweigh whatever short-term savings we might achieve by failing to invest adequately in infrastructure now.
The state of this nation’s infrastructure has been making bad news abroad, as well. A recent article in The Economist, one of the world’s most respected news magazines, reports that the deteriorating state of our ports and inland waterways is harming our global competitiveness.
Our continued under-investment in roads, highways, and bridges has even spawned a new measurement: the planned time index (PTI). The PTI is a measurement of the amount of additional time individuals allow for traffic when planning important local trips, such as commuting to work, catching a plane, or traveling to a meeting. Included for the first time this year in Texas A&M’s annual Urban Mobility Report, a region’s PTI is determined by dividing the time commuters allow for certain trips in normal to heavy traffic by the time the same trips would take in light traffic. A region in which commuters routinely allow 60 minutes for a trip that would otherwise take 20, for example, would have a PTI of 3.0.
Perhaps fittingly, the urban area with the worst traffic congestion in the United States is also the city in which hard-core budget hawks and anti-government ideologues have for years blocked efforts to increase infrastructure investment: Washington, DC. Perhaps that’s poetic justice.
Ed Rehfeld, LECET Manager of Communications