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LaHood: America’s Infrastructure Crisis Is ‘Worse Than You Think’

Thought Leader: Ray LaHood
February 25, 2015

Former Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) believes that it’s up to the country’s lawmakers to create legislation that will fund a complete overhaul of the nation’s transportation system.

“America’s transportation infrastructure is falling apart, and we as a nation are falling behind,” LaHood wrote in a commentary on The Ripon Forum. “We experience the potholes and congestion daily. Yet somehow, with every possible indicator pointing toward the need for increased investment in our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems, policymakers at all levels of government have been sitting on the sidelines.”

LaHood is currently co-chairman of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected officials tasked with researching opportunities for improvement in the country’s infrastructure.

The title of LaHood’s article, and not surprisingly its overarching theme: It’s Worse Than You Think.

“In a recent 60 Minutes segment, my fellow Building America’s Future co-chair former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and I helped to take an in-depth look at the dismal state of many of America’s most-traveled bridges,” LaHood said. “Here’s just one disturbing statistic: 25 percent of the bridges crossed by Americans on a daily basis are either ‘structurally deficient’ or do not have enough capacity for current traffic levels. And as tens of millions of Americans travel over a bridge each and every day, people are rightly concerned about their safety. In this case, the cost of inaction is high.”

LaHood warns that the crisis will only continue to worsen and cost Americans more money if congress doesn’t come up with a solution.

“The neglect of our roads has led to growing congestion and roads that are not properly maintained, and this is costing taxpayers money,” LaHood said.

Statistics indicate that because 32 percent of major roads across America are in poor or mediocre condition, and taxpayers are paying on average $444 each year in additional vehicle repairs and operating costs. Additionally, since 44 percent of America’s major urban highways are congested, drivers are paying $121 billion each year in wasted time and fuel. That’s a total cost of $818 per commuter per year, a number that will continue to increase if a solution isn’t implemented, LaHood said.

“According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. needs roughly $3.6 trillion in total investment by the year 2020 just to get our systems back to ‘adequate’ status,” LaHood said. “It’s a hefty price tag, but it’s one we can no longer afford to put off each year. This has been a bipartisan failure, and both Democrats and Republicans must take the blame for not investing in our nation’s infrastructure. There are no Republican bridges or Democratic highways, yet lawmakers from both sides of the aisle continue kicking the can down the road and waiting for disaster to strike.”

LaHood, who also served as Secretary of Transportation from 2009 to 2013, said it’s up to congress to do the right thing.

“We know how to fix it, and how much money it will take,” LaHood said. “The only piece missing is the political will. I believe that men and women of good will from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue can and will find a way to make the tough decisions.

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