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AFL-CIO Highlights the Need for Infrastructure Investment

During Infrastructure week, union leaders and politicians are calling on Washington to invest in our nation's bloodline

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by AFL-CIO on
May 15, 2018

This week is Infrastructure Week, an annual event where an increasingly powerful coalition led by local, state and federal leaders, as well as both businesses and labor unions, demand massive and necessary investments to build America. This year’s Infrastructure Week comes at a time when 80% of voters say investing in America’s infrastructure is a top priority. America’s labor movement says the time to build is now.

In an op-ed, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said:

As unions, businesses, engineers and policy makers celebrate Infrastructure Week from May 14–21, we’re reflecting on the investments that add value to America. For every dollar a country spends on public infrastructure, it gets back nearly $3, according to a 2014 study from the International Monetary Fund.

Keep this in mind when you hear that the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, has called for $2 trillion to repair, renovate or replace water lines, public schools, bridges and mass transit systems. On top of that, another $2 trillion could make America the global leader in the infrastructure technologies of the future, such as high-speed rail and smart utilities.

That kind of serious infrastructure spending would create countless jobs in manufacturing. Enacting ironclad Buy America provisions would kick-start production in steel and other battered industries, putting millions of people to work and lifting wages. These broad economic benefits explain why year after year, the AFL-CIO joins with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to ask Congress to invest in America’s national infrastructure.

Laborers (LIUNA) General President Terry O'Sullivan also wrote about the importance of investing in our shared resources and shared future:

For too long there’s been too much talk, too little action and far too little investment in our country’s crumbling critical infrastructure. As a result our transportation systems are failing, our water resources are antiquated, our energy systems are out of date, and our nation’s ability to compete is hindered....

During Infrastructure Week, solutions will be highlighted, such as adjusting the federal gas tax and implementing a vehicle miles traveled fee to generate investment, as well as, state efforts to pump more investment into our transportation systems....

No one solution will be enough. What is a certain, though, is that it will take significant national investment to keep our bridges from continuing to deteriorate, better maintain our roads, and improve the reliability of our water.

Here are some of the most important areas where we need to invest in our infrastructure:

  • Bridges: As of the most recent data, 9.1% of bridges were structurally deficient and 14% were functionally obsolete. Motorists make 188 million trips a day on structurally deficient bridges. The repair backlog for bridges would cost $123 billion to get caught up.
  • Roads: Poor roads cost Americans $160 billion in lost time and wasted gas. Two in five urban interstate miles are congested, while one in five miles of pavement across the country is in poor condition.
  • Water: About 240,000 water mains break each year, leading to the waste of 2 trillion gallons of drinking water annually. It would take 200 years to replace needed pipes across the country at the current rate, a timeline well beyond the useful life of those pipes. Additionally, 2,170 dams in the United States are deficient, with dam failure a significant threat to lives and property.
  • Energy: Our power grid is at full capacity, and as demand grows, power outages become more likely. More than $177 billion is needed between now and 2025 to upgrade the grid. Data from the latest year available counted 3,571 electricity outages from aging infrastructure.

Learn more at Infrastructure Week or read about the AFL-CIO's commitment to investment in infrastructure.

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