Black holes: America’s failing infrastructure is in plain sight

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Roads and bridges are a basic responsibility of the government — even most libertarians would agree with that. Yet the pothole plague shows no signs of abating. Pittsburgh motorists filed more than 6,000 pothole reports to the city’s 311 center in the first three months of the year, and relief seems far from soon given the city’s budgetary difficulties.

Nationwide, America’s infrastructure received an overall D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The nation’s bridges, with an average of 42 years and one in nine of which is structurally deficient, fared much better, earning a C+.

Part of the problem is congressional unwillingness to invest in infrastructure, even though infrastructure spending more than pays for itself by stimulating demand and making transportation easier and more efficient for millions.

National highways are in great need of service, with the Federal Highway Administration estimating that $170 billion is needed to significantly improve conditions. Part of the reason is a depletion of the Highway Trust Fund, which will take in $33 billion and spend $45 billion this fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Receipts, funded by the federal gas tax, have been reduced due to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Lawmakers are dawdling on an alternate source of funding, but unless a solution materializes soon, states will have to halt all new construction projects indefinitely. The easy one, raising the gas tax for the first time since 1993, has been stoutly opposed by Republicans for years.

All this is not lost on ordinary Americans: A recent poll found that three in five are worried about the unsafe conditions of their roads and highways. If only three in five lawmakers were as well.

Meet the Editorial Board.


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