“We are robbing America’s future to pay for unneeded weapons of the past,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyToyota halts self-driving car tests on public roads Senate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytica for answers on data Cambridge Analytica: Five things to watch MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement announcing the 2015 SANE Act in late March. The act seeks to cut billions of dollars from the nuclear weapons budget, which is projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years. “The SANE Act cuts the nuclear weapons and delivery systems that we don’t need and will never use so we can invest in the people and programs that will make America safe and prosperous in the future.”  

Markey is right, and there are few areas in which that type of investment is needed more than in our infrastructure.  

America’s highway system is one of the main facilitators of the transfer of goods, services and travel in this country.  Every year, millions of American families take to the highways to go on their vacations. The highway system also carries 97 percent of all truck born freight in the United States. In a very real sense our public roads constitute a fundamental building block of the American dream.

That dream is crumbling.  

Countless miles of the highway system are in a state of serious disrepair, and more than 600,000 bridges are labeled as “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration. The situation has become so dire that the 2013 report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. public roads a D, and our bridges a C+.

The irony in all this is that one of the original designs of the interstate highway system was to securely transport military assets, including nuclear weapons across the country. For instance, the vertical height minimum of 17 feet for overpasses was determined by the clearance needed for the Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile to pass beneath, since it could not be transported by rail.  

Although the Atlas class was retired in 1968, the practice of transporting nuclear weapons on America’s highways continues to this day. The Office of Secure Transportation, a secretive agency within the Department of Energy uses a fleet of trucks to transport nuclear bombs, components and radioactive materials across the country using some of America’s busiest highways. 

This is cause for serious concern.  

Accidents can happen on the best of roads. In 1996 a trailer carrying two nuclear bombs flipped in a freak Nebraska ice storm causing authorities to scramble to secure the deadly payload. On decrepit roads the stakes are even higher.  

There are few scenarios that are more terrifying than a bridge collapsing under a truck carrying a nuclear cargo, causing radioactive contamination or a situation in which nuclear material falls into the wrong hands.  

Making a withdrawal from the trillion dollar nuclear piggybank to improve our infrastructure would not only contribute to the security of the nuclear enterprise, it would make the country stronger as a whole.  

A 2014 report from Standard and Poor’s found that investing $1.3 billion in infrastructure would add 29,000 jobs to the economy, $2.0 billion to the economy and reduce the federal deficit by $200 million. Failure to do so could cause the U.S. to lose out on nearly $1 trillion in business sales, 3.5 million new jobs and $3.1 trillion in GDP.

Making the common sense reductions that the SANE Act proposes would free up billions of dollars to finance projects that would strengthen our national interest. We would do well to heed Pope Francis's advice. Rather than "squander the wealth of nations" on obsolete weapons of the last century, we should reinvest these funds in the future and prosperity of our country. 

Saetren is the Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. He has a master’s degree in Comparative Politics with a focus in the Russian political system and the Cold War.