January 12, 2017 (Windy Hill Beach) — Rep. Michael Quigley of Illinois yesterday urged massive federal program to improve our nation’s infrastructure. Here’s the bulk of his comments on the House floor:
… a strong, safe, reliable, and efficient infrastructure system is vital for robust and sustained economic growth. Comprehensive infrastructure reform is all-inclusive and requires an ongoing investment by the Federal Government in not just our roads and bridges but in all of the vital systems that support our way of life…
Put simply, our national infrastructure system is an embarrassment, earning a D-plus grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is a threat to our economy, to American jobs, to our national security, and to our environment.
We need a public transportation system that gets people where they need to be, keeps our roads clear, and makes our cities better places to live. We need a freight system that moves products and raw materials quickly, safely, and efficiently. We need airways that reliably move people and cargo around the country and the world in a timely manner. We need river locks and ports that allow American farmers to ship their products to market, no matter where that is. We need water pipes and sewers that transport safe, clean water to every American. And we need to close the broadband gap so that every American can take advantage of the opportunities the Internet provides.
Investing in America’s infrastructure is good politics, good economics, and the right thing to do… Currently, the United States needs around $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investment by 2020, just to keep our country in a state of good repair. By contrast, China, perhaps our greatest international rival, spends nearly four times of its GDP on infrastructure than we do and announced nearly a trillion dollars more infrastructure spending just last year…
The benefits of smart investment and infrastructure are massive. Every billion spent in infrastructure creates 13,000 jobs, in addition to improving the efficiency of the system. And every dollar invested generates almost $3 in economic activity.
Conversely, the consequences of failing to act are dire. Each American household stands to lose $3,400 per year in disposable income thanks to infrastructure deficiencies. That is money taken directly from our constituents’ pockets, money they would use to support themselves and their families, not to mention the economy as a whole, which could lose more than $4 trillion in GDP and more than 2.5 million jobs by 2025.
We owe it to each other and every one of our constituents to act. I urge the 115th Congress to prioritize infrastructure spending and pass a comprehensive package that addresses all aspects of the connected infrastructure system.
Each year, Americans take around 11 billion trips on public transportation systems like buses, commuter rail, and light rail, contributing to the $58 billion industry that employs nearly half a million people. And yet, almost half of our Nation’s buses and a quarter of our rail assets are in marginal or poor condition.
My city of Chicago is the crossroads for the Nation’s freight system, and each day more than 54 million tons of freight is moved across the U.S., and nearly a quarter of it passes through the Chicago city limits–at times, very slowly.
We stand to lose $1 trillion a year in lost sales in 2020, if we fail to build out our freight infrastructure to keep pace with future growth.
Congestion is also an issue at our Nation’s airports. Ground delays are becoming a greater challenge as more and more people fly regularly. These delays can have a very serious consequence, resulting in passengers being late to their destinations, lost productivity from cargo sitting on runways, and increased pollution due to needlessly burning jet fuel.
In addition to air and ground, we must also talk about our waterways. Each year millions of tons of material traverse inland waterways like the Mississippi River and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. But, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, there is a billion dollar maintenance backlog that threatens to keep our waterways from maintaining adequate levels of performance.
Water and Sewer Systems
There are problems in our water and sewer systems, too. The 240,000 water main breaks that occur in this country each year cost us more than $2.6 billion; not to mention the lost productivity caused by closed roads, lost water, and other indirect impacts. Nearly all of the U.S. underground water pipes will reach or surpass their useful lifespans in the next decade. The longer we wait, the higher the price tag will become.
Finally, we can use our infrastructure system to promote economic growth and economic equality, and one great way to do that is to close the broadband gap and increase access to high-speed Internet. As many as 50 million Americans live in areas without the ability to get high- quality and useful Internet access. Extending the ability to get online benefits businesses, employees, students, and everyone else without this vital utility, all while spurring economic activities that ripple throughout the economy.