Keep the Momentum Moving

The major infrastructure bill is making its way through Congress, but much more work is still to be done.

By Brian Alvarado

Now that some of the dust has settled in Washington, D.C., the infrastructure industry can target Sept. 27 as the next date to circle, as the House will be voting on the massive $1 trillion plan. This date is also notable because it’s just a few days before funding authority for federal highway programs are set to expire.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed on Aug. 24 that there still needed more work to be done, however that she felt confident that lawmakers will be able to advance the bill after members come back to Capitol Hill next month.

“By Oct. 1, we hope to have in place, that is the plan, to have in place the legislation for infrastructure,” said Pelosi in an article at Transport Topics. “That is bipartisan, and I salute that, but it is not inclusive of all of the values we need to build back at a time when we have a climate crisis.”

This bill is definitely a step in the right direction, however, as Anthony Kane of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure mentions in his interview with American Infrastructure, this is not an outright cure. In this month’s interview, Kane talked about how the American Society of Civil Engineers measured that our nation would need at least $4 trillion to bring infrastructure to a “state of good repair.”

“This is us cancelling 25% of the problem, which is great,” Kane said in the interview. “This covers a good chunk of the problem, but it doesn’t solve the problem.”

In regards to climate change, a major topic of discussion within the industry is sustainability. We’ve already seen the Biden Administration make a big deal of cutting down carbon emissions in a multitude of aspects, whether it be through infrastructure, or even housing.

A sprawling question that pops up in the heads of many is, “what is sustainable infrastructure?” Does it relate to solar or wind energy, or does it have to do more with the materials that are used on a specific project?

Kane, once again from his interview, tried to take a different approach when trying to give a definition to the term “sustainable infrastructure.”

“Well, it’s all of the above. Our system includes 64 different indicators. So that’s the challenge, is that it’s not a silver bullet solution, where all of these one type of things are sustainable and all of these other things aren’t sustainable but it’s more how we’re approaching the situation. To me, sustainability is a mindset. It’s recognizing that we can exist in a world of complex, social, environmental and economic systems,” Kane said. “So to me that’s a little bit more but it can be challenging because it’s not necessarily to say solar panels are good and wind farms are bad, or wind farms are good and solar panels are bad, but how are we moving to a long term view?”

When we talk about sustainability and resilience, this also comes into play when it comes to dealing with natural disasters. Just this past week, Hurricane Ida swept through the East Coast, causing death tolls rising. Record-breaking rain and one of the strongest hurricanes on record to hit our nation has exposed the country’s deteriorating infrastructure.

“Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, told Axios in an article.

The American Society of Civil Engineers came out with the most recent report card for the country’s infrastructure, giving the United States a C-, based on a variety of categories that include transit, stormwater, roads, dams and more.

It’s plain to see that the resilience of our infrastructure needs to be addressed. Yes, the infrastructure bill is a major step forward, however, as Kane reiterated, it’s only 25% of what actually needs to be done. The industry can only hope that natural disasters just like the massive storm can push policymakers to rethink some of their choices when delegating on future legislation involving infrastructure.

Brian Alvarado is the editor for American Infrastructure Magazine. He can be reached at brian@builder.media.

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