For this column I am pretty excited to be discussing the Invest in America Act, a bill designed to provide a boost to some of the nation’s urgent transportation infrastructure needs. For those of you who have been following my radio show, www.peggysmedleyshow.com or this blog, you know that I am extremely passionate about this subject.
The bottomline here is at the end of June the House passed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that would dramatically put some much-needed money toward fixing roads, rail, and bridges.
Let’s review what we know right now. About a month ago, Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who is the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released the text for the “Investing in a new vision for the environment and surface transportation in America Act, or “Invest in America Act” for short.
The Invest in America Act’s goal is to authorize funds for federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, among other purposes.
More specifically, the bill would authorize about $500 billion over the course of five years to help address some of the U.S.’s most critical infrastructure needs. According to DeFazio and his cosponsors, the bill would:
- Tackle the backlog of roads, bridges, and transit systems that need to be repaired or replaced in order to be safe.
- Build resilient infrastructure that will withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather.
- Design safer roadways for all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.
- Pursue zero emissions from the transportation sector by prioritizing carbon pollution reduction, investing in public transit and the national rail network, building out fueling infrastructure for low- and zero-emission vehicles, and deploying technology and innovative materials.
- Increase funding for public transit options in order to integrate technology use and increase routes and reliability.
- Invest in a robust, reliable rail system and address long-standing maintenance needs.
- Finally, improve communities’ access to federal funding so they can pursue projects that are smarter, safer, and more sustainable
As I have discussed, the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Infrastructure Report card in the U.S.—the last one being in 2017 and the next one due next year in 2021—revealed a failing infrastructure. America’s infrastructure was rated a D+ overall in 2017.
ASCE estimates there’s a $90 billion backlog of transit maintenance projects, and that’s expected to reach $122 billion by 2032, if nothing changes. It also put the estimated backlog of bridge rehabilitation needs at $123 billion in 2017.
But legislation like the Invest in America Act is trying to tackle this overwhelming problem. Insufficient transportation infrastructure isn’t just a transportation problem.
First of all, it can be dangerous. Millions of people are driving on these roads and bridges; you’re taking these trains and buses every day. Candidly, the thought that so many people are driving across structurally deficient bridges every day is downright frightening.
Highways are congested, and traffic leads to less productivity and higher operating costs for vehicles—both personal and fleet vehicles. Traffic also leads to more carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
ASCE’s data is also pretty clear on the following point: Investment in public transit is not even close to keeping up with demand.
Earlier, when we talked through the needs that the Invest in America Act aims to address, the ones that really caught my eye were the ones that mentioned technology.
When I look at all the issues in our nation’s transportation infrastructure, there is so much potential for the IoT (Internet of Things).
IoT technologies built into infrastructure help us collect data and act upon it. In a data-driven world, we don’t want our infrastructure to be a “blind spot,” so to speak. We need to be making decisions based on data, and that’s what implementing technology solutions can do … if we can get past the initial investment hurdle, of course.
DeFazio also points out in the Invest in America bill’s text that if we don’t invest in our transportation infrastructure, there will be economic consequences.
He says: “the Invest in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.”
Last week the president of ASCE, K.N. Gunalan “Guna,” issued a statement following the house moving (H.R. 2) forward and it reads, “Today, the House of Representatives prioritized modern, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure as part of America’s recovery. We commend the House for making infrastructure investment a priority by passing the $1.5 trillion Moving Forward act (H.R. 2). This comprehensive legislation takes a holistic approach to investing in and modernizing all infrastructure sectors from roads and bridges, to ports, rail networks, inland waterways, and airports—all which drive our economy—in addition to the drinking water and wastewater systems that keep Americans safe and the schools and parks on which our children rely. H.R. 2 is a first step toward making investments in these sectors a priority.
Infrastructure investment has historically been a bipartisan issue, so we now urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass an infrastructure package that maintains and modernizes the systems that make up the backbone of our economy. We hope Congress can come together over the upcoming weeks to prioritize our infrastructure, create jobs, and get the economy moving again—which will ensure that our hardworking citizens enjoy the quality of life they rightfully deserve for years to come. Investing in sustainable and resilient infrastructure will also ensure the United States regains its economic footing and continues to be competitive in world markets.”
The current surface transportation authorization expires September 30, of this year, so there is no question that something needs to be done and done quickly.
If we continue to let the nation’s infrastructure crumble, we are not doing anything to help the future of transportation, which will be smarter, safer, and more efficient thanks to IoT technologies.
We have an amazing opportunity to leverage technology and we have the data to support it. Now we just need our legislators to put all their support behind it to make our world as safe as possible. Now isn’t that a novel idea?
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