Northwest Missourian Opinion

President Joe Biden’s administration is looking to spend money to improve infrastructure, and America needs the money as fast as it can get it.

American infrastructure is failing. No matter where you live, how you get around your city, how you get electricity or water — it is crumbling. But it takes more than the federal government to pass one bill to fix the problem. 

The whole country saw the impact of an underprepared electric grid in Texas during a winter storm that shut down the state. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner pointed out Texas was unprepared for this disaster despite having a bill filed in the Texas House back in 2011 to prevent this from happening. This type of infrastructure disaster can be prevented with adequate funding and government oversight.

Poor infrastructure is not just a Texas problem — it is an American problem. The American Society of Civil Engineers compiles a report every four years to determine the quality of infrastructure. This report covers everything from roads to electric grids and bridges, even hazardous waste disposal. The overall grade for the U.S. is a C-minus. 

This grade comes from an average from every state and Puerto Rico. No single national infrastructure category gets a grade higher than a B. The ASCE reported U.S. water lines are so degraded that there is a water main break every two minutes, wasting 6 billion gallons of water every day. That is enough clean, treated water to fill 9,000 swimming pools. 

The 2018 report gave Missouri an average grade of C-minus, and it only gets worse from there. Not a single category of infrastructure gets above a C, and Missouri has consistently worse infrastructure than other states. For example, 12.5% of Missouri’s bridges are structurally deficient. Compare that to the national average of 7.5%. Missouri’s roads grade even worse. 

The state’s roads get a D-plus grade. ASCE reports that 25% of Missouri’s roads are in poor condition, and the lack of adequate roads prove to do harm to the population's wallet. The ASCE estimates that residents spend $604 annually in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs because of poor road conditions.  

Solving these issues is an expensive task. The Missouri Department of Transportation oversees state roads and bridges.The largest source of revenue for MoDOT is the statewide gas tax of 17 cents per gallon. This tax was last increased in 1996. As a result, MoDOT has seen its purchasing power decrease over that time to 6 cents due to inflation. MoDOT reports that it loses $50 billion-$60 billion in purchasing power every year. 

The amount of money needed to fix these issues leads to the state, local and federal government playing whack-a-mole with infrastructure. They only put money down when something fails. By the time one spot is fixed, another road, bridge or water line needs repaired or completely rebuilt. Maryville is no different than the rest of Missouri. New potholes seem to pop up regularly, and the city tries to fix the streets but they never fully catch up. It is an endless cycle.  

All levels of government need to step in to prevent any further degradation. Missouri needs to increase MoDOT’s funding. The simplest way would be to increase the gas tax. The federal government needs to pass sweeping legislation to improve any infrastructure inside of its jurisdiction, like interstates, and then provide grants to cities so they can invest in water lines and roads. Cities need to prioritize infrastructure.

Improved infrastructure is something we all need. It will save us all money, time and peace of mind. It’s one of the few things everyone should get behind.

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