Our Crumbling Infrastructure: The Cost of Doing Nothing

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January 17, 2013 in Labor & Economy

I-35W Bridge, 2007 (Kevin Rofidal/Wikimedia)

What would it cost if the nation’s crumbling infrastructure of bridges, roads, rails, sewer systems, power grids, airports and more is allowed to deteriorate at its current pace? Some 3.5 million jobs and $3.1 trillion in lost economic output by 2020. What would it cost to avoid that? About $1.1 trillion in additional investment.

Sure sounds a like a great return on the investment and it is, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The study, Failure to Act: The Impact of Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Growth, finds that:

Deteriorating infrastructure, long known to be a public safety issue, has a cascading impact on the nation’s economy, negatively affecting business productivity, gross domestic product, employment, personal income and international competitiveness.

ASCE finds that with an additional investment of $157 billion a year between now and 2020, the United States can eliminate this projected drag on economic growth and protect:

  • $3.1 trillion in GDP, almost the equivalent of Germany’s entire GDP.
  • $1.1 trillion in U.S. trade value, equivalent to Mexico’s GDP.
  • 3.5 million jobs, more than the jobs created in the United States over the previous 22 months.
  • $2.4 trillion in consumer spending, comparable to Brazil’s GDP.
  • $3,100 in annual personal disposable income.

During the past Congress, President Obama urged lawmakers to approve the American Jobs Act that included a major investment in the nation’s infrastructure, but Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the bill and killed the jobs-creating legislation.

Read the full report.

(Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. His post first appeared on Labor’s Edge and is republished with permission.)

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