Ex-president Donald Trump said in 2016 that the state’s roads, bridges and railways in the country, more reminiscent of a third world country than in a developed and prosperous society. Anyone who thinks that this characterization fits the roaring language that Trump sometimes used rather than does justice to the state of American infrastructure is wrong. Yes, there are beautiful, well-maintained highways in the United States. However, these are often owned by private companies that benefit from tolls.
Other (fast)roads are sometimes full of pits, which are often covered with steel plates for years. President Joe Biden therefore wants to tackle the infrastructure on a large scale. According to Biden’s plan, 32,000 kilometers of motorway should be serviced immediately. There are bridges that have partially collapsed or where the concrete crumbles. For example, if you walk under the Brent Spence Bridge near the city of Cincinnati, you should put up an umbrella because it rains pieces of concrete. The same goes for the Manhattan Bridge, the suspension bridge that spans the East River in New York.
Sometimes bridges are completely closed. More often, the city council limits the number of available lanes in order to reduce the load on traffic. According to the Infrastructure Report Card of March this year, 42 percent of the 617,000 bridges in the United States are over 50 years old; more than 46,000 of them are rated “deplorable.”
The electricity grid also needs to be tackled quickly. Many pipes are built above ground. The wooden masts are often weakened by moisture or woodworm. They break off in a storm. The same applies to the water supply network, which consists largely of rusty cast-iron pipes that are sometimes more than 120 years old and toxic to humans.
Like Biden now, Trump tried to address this problem. But he didn’t get enough support from Congress. Critics also included party members. Biden has now put on the table a plan worth 2300 billion dollars (more than 1900 billion euros). It is intended for the improvement of roads, bridges, railways, airports, water pipes and the electricity grid. In addition, he wants to spend money on improving internet accessibility and, above all, on environmental measures. These include charging stations for electric cars, but also investments in clean energy sources, such as solar parks and windmills.
Surely the latter makes him count on resistance. Republicans believe Biden uses the improvement of the infrastructure structure to make “left-wing hobbies”. The Republican Party leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has therefore already referred to the proposal as the Trojan horse.
Regional differences also sometimes determine the attitude of American politicians. States on the East and West Coast see advantage in the plans. That’s where the traffic is highest. The infrastructure in the (older) cities is in bad shape. Moreover, the coastal regions are more often affected by storms that severely affect the condition of bridges and the electricity grid. These problems are less serious in the often thinner populated states of the interior.
In addition, there is resistance in American business. In itself, entrepreneurs also believe that infrastructure needs to be improved urgently. But they fear to a large extent that they will have to bear the costs. Biden proposes to increase the tax on business from 21% to 28% for 15 years. Trump had just lowered it. Entrepreneurs consider an increase in the fuel tax to be a much fairer measure.
However urgently necessary, Biden’s ambitious proposal has not yet been accepted. To overcome this impasse, some Congressmen suggest that the plans for Road, Bridge and utility improvements should be separated from the other plan components.