According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 55,000 bridges—more than 1,000 per state on average—are currently considered structurally deficient, and a quick trip down an average street in the United States can show you that our roads are in a state of disrepair.
So what's to account for this crumbling infrastructure, and what can we do to provide safer paths and options for our vehicles?
Motivating Factors for Infrastructural Issues
These are six of the biggest factors for our current infrastructural epidemic:
1. A lack of specialization.
Currently, construction demand is outpacing skilled labor to meet those needs. As more adults focus on college education for white-collar careers, fewer people are available for infrastructural demands. With less people available to do the work or plan new projects, it's no wonder why infrastructural problems go unassessed or unaddressed. Many entrepreneurs, like Sam Ovens, make a living on finding high-demand areas and providing information and work to meet those needs, but the high demands of construction haven't attracted enough people to fill the gap.
2. Greater emphasis on technology.
Our culture is also obsessed with new technologies, which are entertaining and novel in most cases. Venture capital firms have been on the rise, putting nearly $30 billion into early-stage startups last year alone. However, the majority of that money goes to young startups with promising new technologies. Inarguably, tech development is beneficial to our economy, but it shorts investments in construction and infrastructure.
3. The funding gap.
The majority of investments in infrastructure don't come from the private sector, however—they come from the federal government—and currently, there's a massive funding gap of $1.4 trillion through the end of 2025, with more than three-quarters of that amount coming from transportation infrastructure. We aren't spending enough money on infrastructural development, and we're coming up short on the commitments we've already made. You get out what you put into your roads, bridges, and highways, so if we don't start investing more soon, American drivers will start feeling the effects in a bad way.
4. A lack of prioritization for regular maintenance.
There's also a burden, usually on local authorities, to regularly maintain and repair streets, roads, and other forms of infrastructure. That could mean anything from fixing a pothole from winter and summer expansion cycles to adding new supports to a bridge that has seen better days. Without these regular maintenance programs, bad infrastructure gets worse, usually at a faster, exponential pace. That's why it's important that we start investing more time and money into preserving the structures we already have.
5. An underinvestment in pedestrian and biking options.
It also doesn't help that the suburbanization of our cities has led to a sharp decrease in pedestrian and biking options. More cars on poorly designed roadway systems means greater wear and tear on those systems, and fewer options for people to get to work. Better designed cities with narrower streets, bike lanes, and sidewalks could reduce the strain on our road systems, and simultaneously give us a good reason to introduce new designs to our urban landscapes.
6. Disinterest in public transportation.
Along those same lines, there's a severe lack of interest, funding, and development for public transportation options. If designed well and properly funded, public transportation could instantly decrease the burden that our infrastructure has to bear–possibly introducing new options for city development.
No Easy Way Out
Unfortunately, the problems on this list aren't the kind that can be easily handled, or even explained. In all likelihood, our infrastructural problems are going to get worse before they start getting better, as the funding gap widens and interest in construction and city planning continue to wane.
Hopefully, better designed roadways and cities, along with greater consumer interest in better infrastructure, can drive more funding and development in this critical component of our country.