America’s infrastructure is rapidly declining. The United States only spends approximately 0.6 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure maintenance despite the fact that the nation’s highways, railroad lines, airports and other transportation systems are in some way involved with generating 100 percent of the GDP.
Modern road construction began under the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower with the Interstate Highway System, which built 47,000 miles of highway. Today, there are nearly four million miles of roads in the United States, which is enough to encircle the planet 160 times.
These same experts predict that in the next two decades, use of America’s infrastructure systems will drastically increase. By 2035, freight trains will carry more than 88 percent more cargo and merchandise. By 2030, automobile passenger miles will increase by 80 percent. Port volume is projected to double within the next seven years.
The country’s lack of attention to the upkeep and maintenance of its transportation infrastructure systems is costing the average American. It’s estimated that Americans spend more than 17 percent of their yearly incomes on transportation-related expenses. For a family living on $50,054 a year, that comes to $8,810 annually. In 2008 alone, Americans spent 4.8 billion hours stuck in traffic congestion. Infrastructure investment has the potential to repair, widen and secure roads so that bottleneck congestion becomes less of an issue.
Transportation analysts are particularly concerned about the nation’s bridges. Drivers log approximately 210 million trips daily across the bridges in America’s 102 largest cities. Yet, 25 percent of these bridges are judged to be either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The statistics are even worse in the nation’s capital. Over 75 percent of the bridges in the District of Columbia are deficient in some way.
The nation’s airports are still using an inefficient ground-based radar system that was first developed in the 1950s. New York City’s three major airports act as gatekeepers for much of the air traffic arriving in this country, which means that even the slightest delay at JFK, LaGuardia or Newark International Airport will produce a domino effect that causes substantial delays in other airports across the country.