It’ll Cost How Much?

By John Latta,

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We know the current, ongoing lack of adequate investment in infrastructure will cost us. But just how much?

Bluntly, a new report tells us that “unless the U.S. invests an additional $1.57 billion per year in infrastructure — drinking water and waste water, electricity, airports, seaports and waterways, and surface transportation — between now and 2020, the nation will lose $3.1 trillion in GNP, $1.1 trillion in trade, a $3,100 per year drop in personal disposable income, $2.4 trillion in lost consumer spending and a little over 3.1 million jobs.”

These scary numbers come from a new American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) report, The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future, the fifth and final report in ASCE’s Failure to Act series.

“This report answers the question: how do U.S. infrastructure systems affect the nation’s economic performance,” says ASCE’s president, Gregory E. DiLoreto.


The report, produced by the Boston-based Economic Development Research Group, concludes that there will be an estimated investment gap between now and 2020 of $846 billion in surface transportation.

Deteriorating infrastructure, long known to be a public safety issue, has a cascading impact on the nation’s economy, negatively effecting business productivity, gross domestic product, employment, personal income, and international competitiveness, the report points out.

“Now is the time to bridge the gap between recognizing the needs and willingness to act,” says Janet Kavinoky, executive director of transportation and infrastructure and vice president of Americans for Transportation Mobility for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The ASCE projections include both the costs of building new infrastructure to service increasing populations and the cost of expanded economic activity; and for maintaining or rebuilding existing infrastructure that needs repair or replacement. “The total documented cumulative gap between projected needs and likely investment in these critical systems will be $1.1 trillion by 2020,” says the report.

The bulk of the gap is due to surface transportation needs, including roads, bridges and transit systems.

Crunched numbers in the report show that surface transportation needs in 2020 will be $1.723 billion, expected funding will be $877 billion, leaving a funding gap of $846 billion. By 2040 say the report numbers, needs will be $6.751 billion, funding $3.087 billion and the funding gap $3.664 billion (dollars in 2010 billions). Surface transportation needs will go 49 percent unmet in 2020 and 54 percent unmet in 2040 by these numbers.

Two years ago it was estimated that deficiencies in America’s surface transportation system cost households and businesses nearly $130 billion. “If present trends continue,” says the report, “by 2020 the annual costs imposed on the U.S. economy from deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will increase to $210 billion, and by 2040 to $520 billion.”

The report’s 2020 projections show that our surface transportation infrastructure deficiencies are expected to cost the national economy almost $900 billion in GDP, rising to $2.7 trillion through 2040.

“Moreover,” says the report,“as productivity deteriorates along with infrastructure degradation, more resources will be wasted in each sector. In other words, it may take two jobs to complete the tasks that one job could handle without delays due to worsening surface transportation.”



“The cost of the reform to taxpayers would be less than $1 per week, per vehicle.”

 – John Horsley, who has just retired as executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, proposing that Congress convert the “cents per gallon” federal excise tax on fuels to a sales tax on fuels.