American infrastructure – the roads, bridges, utilities and other structures that make our daily lives possible – for years has lagged behind that of other industrial nations.
A 2019 report from the World Economic Forum compares the competitiveness of 141 countries, ranking them based on topics such as infrastructure, labor markets and health care. Researchers for the Swiss nonprofit ranked the U.S. second overall, behind Singapore, but noted we're losing ground to other countries in the quality of transportation and utility infrastructure.
The U.S. ranks 13th in infrastructure, far behind Singapore, which also topped that category. United Arab Emirates is No. 12.
For rail infrastructure – researchers tallied the number of miles of railroad track per square mile – the U.S. comes in a dismal 48th.
The American Society of Civil Engineers this year gave the U.S. a C-minus for infrastructure, citing poor road conditions and frequent water main breaks that release 6 billion gallons of water daily.
The message is clear: Work must be done to repair and improve the foundations on which our communities are built.
“Our roads, water systems, energy grid and more help drive the economy, support our quality of life and ensure public health and safety,” the civil engineers group's 2021 Report Card for America's Infrastructure says. “Unfortunately, we have been underinvesting in our infrastructure for decades.”
There finally is congressional movement on plans to reinvest, and Indiana Sen. Todd Young is a key supporter of a bill calling for $1 trillion – much of it new spending – in infrastructure upgrades. He was among 17 Republicans to vote last week to open debate on the weighty legislation, paving the way toward potential Senate passage this week of one of President Joe Biden's top priorities.
Young said after the vote that 5,500 miles of Indiana roads are in poor condition, and the American Society of Civil Engineers says more than 19,000 of the state's bridges are structurally deficient.
“We've made a lot of progress so far on an historic investment in our nation's core infrastructure that will be fully paid for without raising taxes,” Young said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we sand and polish the final product.”
Hoosiers surely will benefit from the spending plan, which the Washington Post notes leaves virtually no part of the economy untouched.
Roads and bridges across the country would be expanded and improved. About $65 billion would be set aside for broadband internet access. Airports would see $25 billion in improvements.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act calls for $66 billion for passenger railways, though it's not clear whether any of that would go toward restoring rail service to Fort Wayne – an idea on some local officials' wish list for years.
GOP Sen. Mike Braun opposes the bipartisan measure, questioning the cost and how to pay for it – despite Democrats and Republicans who have signed on saying the legislation will be covered through mechanisms such as reclaiming past stimulus funds and collecting taxes on cryptocurrencies, the Post reported Monday.
Those are fair questions. But maintenance costs to repair aging infrastructure will rise in the future, and traveling on unsafe roads or bridges threatens lives. And there is the positive impact of upgrades on job creation.
The infrastructure package appears to be a solid plan to shore up needs neglected for too long. Each of Indiana's senators should closely examine the bill and consider supporting it.