Infrastructure investment is essential to driving economic growth at all levels. Improvements in transportation, water and broadband draw new businesses and jobs to cities and their regions, while creating a better climate for current businesses to expand and add workers.
U.S. government policy plays a formative role in supporting the infrastructure that cultivates successful cities. History shows how forward-thinking leadership at the federal level paved the way for the modern economy and the infrastructure that supports it. The Federal Highway Act of 1956 connected America’s cities and towns and supported the growth and success of our regional and national economies. The Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 restored America’s waterways and ensured the availability of clean water — making America’s cities more livable and more attractive for business.
But today, it appears we have forgotten about the essential role of infrastructure investment in supporting quality of life and robust economic growth. Critical infrastructure across the nation is in a state of neglect and disrepair. One in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years. Likewise, much of our water infrastructure was built in the post World War II period and is need of critical updates—an estimated 240,000 water main breaks happen each year in our country.
Furthermore, we must reexamine how federal infrastructure dollars are supporting 21st century economic trends. Since 1992, roughly 80 percent of all federal transportation funding has been reserved for the highway system, at the expense of alternative modes. In 2014, rush-hour commuters spent an estimated 6.9 billion hours in traffic, up from 6.4 billion in 2010, at significant cost to the nation. In addition, at a time in our economic history where access to information is paramount to opportunity and prosperity, our nation’s broadband system is failling many communities across the country. Around 15 percent of U.S. households—or approximately 47 million Americans do not have Internet in their homes.
Adding to these problems is the impact of extreme weather events. Heat waves, droughts, heavy downpours, floods, and hurricanes are straining existing infrastructure and introducing new challenges.
The investments our federal leaders make to strengthen and modernize our nation’s infrastructure will set the foundation for the next century of economic progress. To preserve our economic leadership in the world, the next President must make a priority addressing the the woeful state of U.S. infrastructure and make the investments needed to support continued — and accelerated — growth in cities and throughout the country.
Specifically, we ask the next Administration to:
- Act as a champion for tax-exempt municipal bonds, the primary financing mechanism for state and local infrastructure projects. Any policy to alter the tax-exempt status of these bonds will cost local governments billions of dollars and prevent many projects from going forward.
- Support adequate and reliable long-term funding for infrastructure reflecting local needs and priorities.
- Support a vibrant web of connected transportation options — from transit and air to railways, roads, and waterways — as a means to reduce congestion, protect the environment, and stimulate economic development.
- Encourage and promote deployment of broadband networks in a competitive and technologically neutral manner, while preserving local authority to take action to ensure that residents have access to high-speed Internet and other communications services.
Learn about the other top priorities for cities: