On March 9, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a devastating analysis of our nation's subpar roads, ports, airports, bridges and waterways in its highly respected "Infrastructure Report Card."
The comprehensive report evaluated the quality of American infrastructure and again gave us a D+ rating. Pathetic. We are America. We should be #1. When I drive on many streets in Baltimore, and see the rusting bridges, I feel like I am in a developing country. We are behind and need to fix this underinvestment as soon as possible.
Today, I am speaking to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., about how critical Infrastructure is to manufacturing in the United States. In a recent survey of members of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 97.8 percent agreed that an efficient infrastructure system reduces transportation bottlenecks and costs to get products to market as well as congestion that can disrupt a supply chain and shut down a manufacturing shop floor. An American manufacturing renaissance depends on solid infrastructure.
The United States used to invest properly in infrastructure. As a matter of fact, 50 years ago, public and private infrastructure investment was almost 4 percent of GDP. Today, infrastructure spending as a share of U.S. GDP is around 2.5 percent. That's half of what the Europeans are investing--5 percent of their GDP.
To make matters worse, China is running circles around us. For example, last year, China spent $1.4 trillion on infrastructure, such as roads, railways, bridges and its telecom networks. In fact, if we look over the past decade, China has spent about $11 trillion on infrastructure. That is more than 10 times the $1 trillion investment President Donald Trump is advocating.
Here are five key observations and ramifications of the infrastructure deficit in the United States:
1) Manufacturers use infrastructure to get product to market, and when it is subpar our clients are disappointed with late deliveries. This impacts every way we ship--highways, bridges, waterways, ports, passenger rail, freight rail and even basic systems that we take for granted like drinking and waste water systems, broadband, pipelines, electric grid, transit and airports. At the same time, our supply chains have evolved so that our factory floors are reliant on more frequent deliveries. A single transportation failure can shut down my shop floor.
2) The NAM unveiled a step-by-step infrastructure policy blueprint called "Building to Win," which is the roadmap our nation should follow for the renewal of our nation's infrastructure to cultivate growth, economic competitiveness, productivity, jobs and quality of life. The Trump administrations has cited this plan favorably.
3) Prior generations created wonderful systems, but now they are old and need to be refreshed. Near my factory, a critical artery into our City of Baltimore is a worn out, unsafe bridge built in 1916. The Hanover Street Bridge is woefully inadequate for the modern traffic volume and the commercial trucks that must move across it to fuel our city's economy. It is pockmarked with deep holes and gouges that spook out the bravest driver. Every city has a Hanover Street Bridge. We need these modernized now.
4) Paying for infrastructure can no longer be kicked down the road. There are many funding proposals, including user fees, so the user pays to play. Currently, modern day consumers of American infrastructure are unaware of the public costs of maintaining the transportation systems that take families to school. However, there is no silver bullet and, as the NAM's "Building to Win" roadmap lays out, we need to have all options on the table including both public funding and private financing tools.
5) Manufacturers are enthusiastic about the commitment made by President Trump's team to make sure American infrastructure is "second to none." We should go big and spend the money to make sure it is fixed right. We have a unique opportunity with a President in the White House who made infrastructure a leading issue of his campaign, and believes in building for the future. This is in the President's DNA. Underinvestment in infrastructure is something we can no longer afford. Great nations build and invest in great infrastructure, so it is imperative we act boldly in the face of the challenge.