The cause of those failures boils down to one thing: money. In plain and simple terms, America has grossly failed to maintain its infrastructure. We spent a great deal of money to build these systems, but since the 1970s we have severely underfunded both the maintenance necessary to keep them in good working order and the new construction required to meet our increasing needs. In the process, we’ve allowed many systems to become so worn out and badly damaged that they need to be rebuilt from the ground up, a much more expensive alternative to maintenance. Overall, the false savings of deferred maintenance have only served to postpone and greatly increased the cost we now must pay.
There are a number of issues surrounding the decision-making processes that control infrastructure spending (they take too long, they lead to unnecessary projects and cost overruns, etc.) but those should properly be discussed in the next section on Corruption; the heart of the infrastructure problem is that it will take a massive amount of money to fix it, but – until we fix it – the damaged systems will continue to drain even more money from us over time. There are other effects, besides the purely monetary ones, which are of additional concern to the Interlock, but the heart of the problem is cash.
According to the ASCE, in their Failure to Act report published in January 2013, there’s a current need for $1.66 trillion in infrastructure investment, which will increase by 2020 to $2.75 trillion if current spending trends continue. Not all of this investment is necessary immediately, but the rule of deferred maintenance still applies – the longer we let it go undone, the greater the final bill will be for fixing and replacing what’s broken.
Next page: The Consequences
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