America’s Cities: Ready to Rebuild Our Nation

This is a guest post by NLC Second Vice President Joe Buscaino, councilmember, Los Angeles.

This week, city leaders across America are taking part in Infrastructure Week to advocate for a national effort to renew our crumbling infrastructure. Such an effort is badly needed and long overdue.

Cities are ready to restore and improve our nation’s ports, roads, bridges, and broadband networks—to create the next generation of American infrastructure. But we need a strong federal partner to do so.

In Los Angeles, we’re doing our best with limited resources — such as fixing pavement for bicycle traffic and getting the city’s roads and transit system ready for the 2028 Olympics. And in 2016, Los Angeles voters passed Measure M, which added a half-cent to city sales tax to help raise funds for infrastructure improvements. But there are limits to what Los Angeles or any other city can do absent proactive federal engagement and funding.

As Chair of the City Council’s Trade, Travel, and Tourism Committee, which oversees the Port of Los Angeles and LAX — the busiest port and second busiest airport in the United States — I know all too well just how much needs to be done to fix our infrastructure. According to the American Society of Civil Engineer’s (ASCE) 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, 5.5 percent of California’s bridges are “rated structurally deficient” and “678 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential.” Additionally, the state’s drinking water system requires a $44.5 billion investment, while wastewater infrastructure needs total $26.2 billion.

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We know that, working together, federal and local governments can make a real difference to improve a city’s infrastructure. In 2014, for example, the city was awarded Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants to improve access to Metro Rail. And in 2015, Los Angeles received another TIGER grant for the Rail to Rail Active Transportation Corridor Connector Project in South Los Angeles.

These and other similar partnership efforts have not only improved the city’s infrastructure, they have also improved quality of life for our residents.

America’s infrastructure is in terrible condition — the ASCE report cited above gives the nation’s infrastructure a deeply problematic D+ “grade.” At a minimum, $2 trillion will be necessary to do the job right, but Congress is offering a wholly inadequate $20 billion in funding. Congress should instead invest historic levels of funding to deal with our country’s massive backlog of infrastructure projects and work with cities to ensure our infrastructure never again falls into such a dangerous — and embarrassing — state of disrepair.

Cities like Los Angeles have innovative plans in place to make this a reality. We’re developing sustainable, intermodal infrastructure that intersects with the nation’s larger infrastructure networks and will allow our communities flourish. We’re leveraging technology and data science, building smarter, and helping our residents gain the skills they need to thrive in a dynamic economy.

Now, it’s up to Congress to provide the resources needed to bring these kinds of plans to full fruition on a national scale.

Traditionally, infrastructure has been one of the least partisan issues with which Congress contends. And America’s cities and local leaders stand ready to get to work rebuilding our nation and securing the bright future our citizens deserve. All we need is a strong partner in the federal government. As a Los Angeles City Councilmember — as well as Second Vice President of the National League of Cities — I urge Congress to take swift action on this issue.

Joe_Buscaino_official.jpgAbout the Author: Joe Buscaino, councilmember, Los Angeles, currently serves as the second vice president of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter at @joebuscaino.