When it comes to fixing America's infrastructure, the government does more talking than walking

For the past week during Infrastructure Week, countless organizations and leaders have united around one message: “The future won’t wait. Neither can we.”

However, wait we shall when it comes to a sorely needed infrastructure revitalization.

The 6th annual National Infrastructure Week, which ended yesterday, is a week-long event centered around educating America’s public about the relevance of infrastructure to the nation’s economy, workers, and communities.

During last week’s infrastructure week, Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, reiterated White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ recent statement that this year doesn’t look too good for passing infrastructure legislation in Congress.

Why? Apparently, Congress feels there are more pressing issues.

At the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) meeting May 16, Graves said any infrastructure legislation will play second fiddle to bills pertaining to the Federal Aviation Administration, farming, and water resources.

While members of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have frequently talked about raising revenues to fund infrastructure, there’s been a lot of talking, but no walking.

I don’t think there’s going be any major infrastructure bill at all in this Congress. Nothing moves forward. We are not going to end up with an infrastructure bill, unless I’m in total shock and all the points come together.
— Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)

While some members of Congress think the solution to passing infrastructure legislation is to break President Trump’s infrastructure package into smaller chunks, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) thinks this would cause the package to “lost gusto.”

“Our biggest issue is going be the infrastructure package itself. I think it’s critical to put everything in there and have the full debate now. That is the debate we need to have,” said Denham, chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. “We need to be bold. We need to have a big package. Ultimately, I would expect an infrastructure package to be bipartisan as well.”

And right now, our D+ infrastructure doesn’t need a piecemeal fix. It needs an overall solution. 

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Although some legislators deem other issues to be more pressing, the Highway Trust Fund, which funds public bridges, highways, and road, is teetering on the edge of insolvency. In fact, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, this fund could become insolvent in just three years.

The federal fuel tax is the lifeblood of the trust fund. However, while changes in fuel consumption and driving habits are advantageous in some respects, these factors have done major damage to the fund.

Some grant programs, like Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFA) and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD), seek to find a solution for the nation’s infrastructure woes, but Lowenthal claims these programs won’t amount to much without a sustainable source of funding for highway projects.

“Without a sustainable funding stream, those are just good intentions. Those are not a real commitment to making the infrastructure in this nation work,” Lowenthal said. “These investments are desperately needed. If we think we’re going to rely on the general fund to do this, we’re dreaming.”

According to NPR’s David Schaper, the lack of funding solutions to the nation’s infrastructure issues is a source of frustration for mayors and state leaders who have upped local taxes to pay for infrastructure projects. 

“We're now at 30 or more states that have raised their own gas taxes to better fund infrastructure needs to fix their roads and bridges,” Schaper said. 

However, their funding efforts won’t be enough. They need federal help.

“They've been waiting for a federal infrastructure plan,” Schaper said. “There's a lot of optimism when President Trump was elected and when he came into office promising all this infrastructure.”

The frustration is growing because they are saying that even with all this talk, there’s just not a lot of walk from the White House.
— NPR's David Schaper