About the only thing the leading 2016 US presidential candidates agree on is that the country’s infrastructure is in a desperate state. Democrat Hillary Clinton describes the problem as “a national emergency” and Republican Donald Trump opines that “our house is falling down”. If elected, both promise to pour billions of dollars into repairs and maintenance running the gamut from potholes to kindergartens, into upgrades for ports and airports, and even into funding that very un-American concept, public transport. This spending would be spread over 16 categories of infrastructure as defined by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The society has given a cautious welcome to both candidates’ budgetary proposals. That is not entirely surprising since they do not fall far short of ASCE’s own estimates. In its 2013 American Infrastructure Report Card, the society concluded that the US needed to invest $3.6tn by 2020 to bring infrastructure up to scratch. Based on likely capital spending levels however, it warned of a $1.6tn shortfall – or about $201m annually over the eight years covered by the report. The overall grade ASCE therefore awarded was a poor D+.
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