Ewing Fellow: Millenials need to engage in effort to boost U.S. infrastructure

BY BRYAN LYNCH Published: July 26, 2014
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Congress is debating temporary funding for the National Highway Trust Fund, which is responsible for more than $50 billion in grants for infrastructure projects annually. The fund, predicted to run out of money in August, has used $52 billion more than its account has received in revenue over the past 10 years.

Though Congress always patches the holes in the fund’s budget, these temporary solutions appear to be losing viability as the gap between revenue and expenditures is predicted to grow to $167 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2024.

These budget shortfalls stem from the perpetually decreasing revenue of the federal gas tax, which has remained unchanged at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, while cars have become more fuel-efficient, inflation has diminished returns and construction costs have continued to increase — reducing the purchasing power of the fund.

Failing infrastructure is bad for the economy. In 2012 Americans spent upwards of 4.75 billion hours in traffic congestion, wasting approximately $100 billion of fuel. Moreover, flawed infrastructure can threaten public safety, of which Oklahomans are particularly aware: 21 percent of our bridges are considered structurally deficient, a number that increased earthquake activity will likely escalate.

Common Sense Action is a bipartisan advocacy group of millennials that works to bring an increasingly ideologically diverse millennial generation together to facilitate bipartisanship in politics. CSA proposes two relevant solutions to infrastructure in its “Agenda for Generational Equity.”

First, the federal government should undertake an expansion of initiatives that encourage private investment into infrastructure projects. Thus, areas without sufficient public funding can get the attention their infrastructure and industry require. Public-private partnerships eliminate some of the political roadblocks that prevent efficient approaches to improvement and development.

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