Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure

Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix our infrastructure
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As partisan fighting intensifies ahead of the midterm elections, one of the few issues with bipartisan support has hit a wall in Washington: Investing in America’s decaying infrastructure. This is a straightforward proposition.

There’s either a plan and resources to make it happen or there’s not. There’s been a lot of talk, but city leaders from New York to Los Angeles know the difference between talk and results. Congress must finally deliver an infrastructure funding plan before they come home this fall.


At the start of the year, the president and Congress walked out of Camp David announcing they would be fulfilling a campaign promise of an infrastructure plan. Hopes were high that momentum was building. However, the principles and talking points never turned into an actual bill.


With no significant plan in sight by Republicans or Democrats, on July 23rd, retiring House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill ShusterWilliam (Bill) Franklin ShusterLobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Ex-Rep. Frelinghuysen joins law and lobby firm Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR MORE (R-Pa.) struck out on his own with a draft plan for national infrastructure investment because he knows we cannot just keep waiting. He may just be the canary in the coal mine.

The truth is that Congress, states and cities are not doing enough today to fix the infrastructure in your neighborhood and across our country.

The Report Card for America’s Infrastructure shows that collectively the country is planning to spend only half of the $4.5 trillion that is needed by 2025 to restore our nation’s backbone systems, like transportation, water, and our energy grid.

Local governments and some states are picking up the pace at home with efforts like ballot measures for strategic investments, but Congress has tools and resources we don’t, and we simply can’t keep our nation running without a federal plan. 

Congress’ transportation fund is quickly draining its last emergency transfer of funds and is still spending more than it collects. Shuster’s new proposal shows Congress how America could get to a future where funding isn’t running out every few years and then perhaps we could start planning for more than just the next emergency. 

City leaders across our country spend their days and nights worrying about their cities’ infrastructure repair bills or the next big collapse. Whether it’s a crumbling bridge, a rail system in desperate need of repair, an overdue highway expansion, or overloaded water infrastructure, we don’t expect Congress to do it all, but we can’t keep our economies running without them holding up their end.

We expect Congress to keep up with their existing programs and to fix the federal Highway Trust Fund, which provides critical funding to the everyday roads and transit arteries that move people, goods, and services throughout the country. Americans have a right to expect Congress to stop creating funding emergencies and then applauding themselves for staving off another total collapse. Instead, Congress should do what cities do every day: make good, practical decisions about the basic infrastructure we all rely on.

Cities across this country are stepping up to keep Americans’ infrastructure running, and we will keep doing our share, taking care of locally-promised projects and upkeep on 78 percent of our roads, 50 percent of our bridges, and 95 percent of our water infrastructure.

But we can’t do it all. City leaders across this country hear every day that our residents and our businesses expect more. We expect more too, and we do our best to deliver. But we can’t do it without Congress. We urge members of the House and Senate to deliver on infrastructure and rebuild with us.

Gale A. Brewer is the borough president of Manhattan, one of the five boroughs that make up New York City, and serves as Chair of the National League of Cities’ Large Cities Council. Follow her on Twitter: @galeabrewer