SEBRING — Road construction often seems a giant expense that costs time as well as taxpayer money.
According to as recent study by a corporate think tank, that investment could put more money back into people’s pockets, in the form of better gross domestic product (GDP) and increased pay for all workers.
Business Roundtable, whose members lead companies with nearly 15 million employees and $7.5 trillion in revenues, has released a study from December 2018 stating that a modern infrastructure system would be key to opening up the full productive potential of the United States of America. However, the study states, public-sector investment in infrastructure has not kept pace with growth elsewhere in the U.S. economy.
The study states U.S. infrastructure funding dropped by 8 percent from 2003 to 2017. As a share of GDP, public infrastructure spending fell by nearly 11 percent, when adjusted for inflation and other cost factors.
Population and economic growth grew beyond the ability to maintain systems to serve those two forces.
Communities initiated local solutions, such as impact fees for various government services. However, thanks to economic downturns in the last 20 years, most local governments that had such fees have put them on hold, as a way of lowering construction costs to attract new business.
The study outlines the following problems:
• 44 percent of major roads are in poor/mediocre condition, with 45 percent of major urban highways congested.
• More than one in five bridges in the national highway system — 23 percent — is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
• Lock shutdowns on U.S. waterways for maintenance and unexpected delays added up to 144,000 hours in 2016, nearly 90 percent more than in 2000
• Inadequate infrastructure costs American businesses $27 billion per year in extra transportation costs.
• Approximately 38 million people in 2013 avoided domestic plane trips, thanks to previous air travel difficulties. That cost the economy nearly $36 billion.
• Congestion on major urban roadways, in 2014, cost the average commuter $960 and 42 hours of travel time
Projections are that wasted fuel measured at 3.1 billion gallons in 2014, would go up to 3.8 billion by 2020, if nothing changes in infrastructure policies and funding.
The study states that its findings are meant to make a case for reversing this problem and increasing public investment, to the tune of $737 billion over the next 10 years, in surface transportation, water/wastewater systems, aviation, water resources and water transportation.
That would be $529 billion for surface transportation; $93 billion for water/wastewater systems; $83 billion for water resources/transportation, such as ports, dams and levees; and $32 billion in aviation.
The study suggests government should set a “new normal” of public-sector commitment to maintaining that infrastructure.
In that commitment, the study suggests, $450 billion would come from federal coffers, $229 billion would come from state and local sources and the rest, $59 billion, would come from private investment.
The return on the investment, the study said, would be an increase of $5.9 trillion to the GDP over 20 years, and encouragement of $1.9 trillion in corporate investment over that same time period.
The study also suggests that well-maintained and modernized infrastructure adds an average of $1,400 per year in disposable income for the average U.S. household, for 20 years.
That’s roughly $23,300 more per family between now and 2039.
Average wages would raise by $1.34 per hour after that time, the report states.
Thus, the report claims, infrastructure investment would pay for itself “several times over,” with every additional dollar invested in infrastructure paying back $3.70 in additional economic growth over 20 years.
Better infrastructure would also save families money by saving them travel time and costs from failing or malfunctioning systems while providing a more dynamic economy and work environment, the study states.
These improvements would also help the U.S. economy, the report states, by saving domestic companies costs from delays and other drags on efficiency. That’s because, as the report states, good roads, bridges, airports, water/waste systems, dams, levees, ports and urban transit helps drive innovation, competition, job growth and productivity.
U.S. businesses depend on that infrastructure for imports, exports and worker commutes, the report asserts. U.S. households, in turn, need it to make the country accessible, lower cost of everyday goods, provide clean drinking water and basically improve lives.