The era of building new infrastructure in this country may be receding, replaced by an era of simply repairing existing infrastructure that was built decades ago.
So suggests a new report just issued by the Washington-based Brookings Institute contending that policymakers should place a greater emphasis on finding funding for the upgrading and maintenance of the nation’s roads and bridges.
The report, Shifting Into an Era of Repair, says overall spending on infrastructure work in the U.S. has decreased in the last decade from nearly $465 billion to just over $440 billion.
The same trend is seen in infrastructure spending as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, with an average 2.5 percent over the last few decades decreasing in 2017 to 2.3 percent.
This decline in infrastructure spending, continues the Brookings study, “masks a more significant trend unfolding across the country: increased spending on infrastructure operation and maintenance.”
Seen from the perspective of the 1950s, the decade that saw a blooming of new highway construction across the country, spending on new infrastructure projects has decreased from around 60 percent of overall national investments in 1956 to 40 percent in 2017.
At the same time, continues the report, states and localities have decreased their capital spending by just over $31 billion, while upping their operation and maintenance spending by just under $24 billion.
The report adds that the country has entered an age in which basic infrastructure maintenance needs will continue to grow, and that both federal and state policymakers should focus on that aspect of infrastructure work when it comes to funding.
“There is a need to not only better articulate the role in infrastructure investment, but to also rethink how state and local leaders can partner more efficiently with one another and be more intentional in their future investments,” the report concludes.
By Garry Boulard
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