Infrastructure bill an opportunity for bipartisanship

At first glance, this is a technical problem, only affecting those touched by such infrastructure. However, this bill affects the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and is directly tied to the prices you pay for practically everything.

The WRRDA bill is the primary source of federal funding for maintaining and modernizing our nation’s ports, waterways, dams, and levees. But so what? If you don’t live near any of this infrastructure, why does it affect you? The simple answer is we live in a global economy. Food, goods, and all manners of commerce are conducted on an international-scale. No matter where you live in the U.S., chances are some of the goods you buy every day came through international trade. Surprising to some is the fact that more than 95 percent of overseas trade produced or consumed by the United State moves through our ports. So, the next time you are at the grocery store, remember that those bananas probably came through the Port of Miami or the Port of San Diego. And if those ports cannot be maintained and meet new demands then that only means that the price of bananas will go up and hurt your pocketbook.

Now imagine this issue on a national scale, for practically every good we buy.

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The American Society of Civil Engineers believes we have the civic duty to use our expertise to inform the public of our nation’s woeful infrastructure. A year ago, we conducted a series of economic studies looking at our failure to invest in U.S infrastructure and its effect on our economy.  We found that if we simply continue along our current investment trend, without any new investments, the U.S. would lose more than 3.5 million jobs, and cost each American family approximately $3,100 between now and 2020.

This is why we need WRRDA.

Infrastructure is the foundation of our economy, and in our most recent 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, we gave that foundation a D+. Sadly, many of the sectors addressed by WRRDA received even worse marks than America’s infrastructure GPA. In our Report Card, Ports earned a C, Inland Waterways a D-, Dams a D, and Levees a D-. These grades are unacceptable. Our nation’s poor infrastructure hurts our competiveness and jeopardizes our public safety.

While the WRRDA bill will by no means fix all of our problems, it will help families and businesses save money while also fortifying critical dams, levees, ports, and waterways. Anyone seriously concerned about our nation’s economy and security, must also be concerned about our nation’s infrastructure. As bill moves through the House this week, we urge Congress to use this bipartisan legislation as a rallying point to show that Capitol Hill can get important things done while making our nation stronger.

Diloreto is the 2013 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and former CEO of the Tualatin Valley Water District in Oregon, a publicly owned water utility serving over 200,000 in the west Portland Oregon metropolitan area.