If America maintained its infrastructure with the same care Carmona did his home, this never would have happened.
However, U.S. leaders long failed to invest in the nation’s roads, bridges and dams, turning them into crumbling hazards that put Americans’ lives and dreams at risk.
Four years ago, Donald Trump pledged a $1 trillion national infrastructure program. But he failed to deliver any rebuilding campaign at all. Americans still drive over decrepit bridges and raise their families in the shadows of aging dams.
Now, as the country struggles to rebound economically from the COVID-19 pandemic, an infrastructure campaign is more essential than ever.
Rebuilding the nation’s transportation and energy systems would provide work for millions of Americans who lost jobs—or risk losing them—because of the economic slump triggered by the coronavirus.
Upgraded roads, bridges and waterways would facilitate an expansion of commerce for years to come. And a major infrastructure push will protect the lives and investments of Americans who are tired of being placed in harm’s way.
“What is it going to take?” asked Carmona, a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 12075 and a logistics operator at Dow Chemical in Midland. “How much devastation? How much loss of life?”
The cost of repairing them runs tens of billions of dollars. Until they’re upgraded, many communities will face the same threat as Midland.
The nation’s roads, bridges, harbors, electrical lines, airports and water systems also are in deplorable shape. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure an abysmal “D+” rating.
Americans are fed up with broken-down roads and bridges—and with politicians who refuse to take decisive action no matter how many disasters occur.
“Just get it done,” said Kent Holsing, president of Local 12075, who helped friends haul ruined items out of their flooded houses. “Who will step up—when will we step up—to truly address this crisis?”
A long-term infrastructure program is now a national imperative, essential to protect Americans from failing bridges and dams, ensure the steady flow of commerce and jump-start an economy hobbled by COVID-19.
“Buy American” provisions will be crucial to the program’s success.
Federal, state and local governments must rebuild roads, bridges and other assets with American labor and U.S.-made materials. That will ensure the highest-caliber craftsmanship while expanding the nation’s manufacturing capacity and putting Americans to work.
Many of those jobs would be in the building trades, material handling, transportation and other fields directly related to construction. But others would be in steel, aluminum and other industries along the supply chain.
Still more positions would be created in fields like architecture and engineering and in the training programs needed to prepare workers for infrastructure jobs.
And many of these would be family-sustaining, middle-class jobs, the kind the country lost by the millions in recent years as manufacturing declined. Now, America needs these jobs to move forward in the post-COVID-19 world.
In Midland, neighbors and friends are pitching in to help the flood victims.
Carmona appreciates the support. But what he’d really like is to spare others the devastation that will take him months, maybe years, to overcome.
“Unless you see it or experience it, you can’t understand it,” he said. “It’s unreal.”