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Does Another Kind of “Fiscal Cliff” Loom in the Distance?

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Last week, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. In it, he mentioned a number of things, including his intentions to move forward to fix the deteriorating condition of the nation’s infrastructure, particularly when it comes to the roadways, bridges, and passageways that the nation’s truckers depend on to make a living. Some bridges (such as one in Pennsylvania which required a lower posted weight limit due to lack of repairs) are no longer capable of handling rigs that once passed over without incident. But the American Trucking Association says that the President’s promises are simply not enough. According to a statement released by the ATA following Obama’s address, since the President has no actual plans for funding these renovations, the promises are meaningless. The ATA statement indicated the problems were moving the nation towards another type of “fiscal cliff” when the infrastructure finally failed and ruined commerce.

The President and Congress have mentioned many times that the situation needs to be addressed, and have even put forth plans for infrastructure improvements. However, these promises have come without a plan in place to fund the upgrades and renovations. 

The United States’ infrastructure ratings have fallen consistently since 2008. Last year, the United States dropped to 14th in the rankings of the world’s infrastructures, which is a steep seven slots worse than it was just five years ago, according to a report released by the World Economic Forum. The downgrade was largely due to bridge collapses, such as the one in Washington state, as well as 700 bridges around the country deemed insufficient. 

Meanwhile, spending on bridge repairs and other infrastructure issues accounts for a lower percentage of the U.S. GDP than it has in the past two decades. Prior to the economic collapse of 2008, local governments were picking up much of the tab for road and bridge repairs. After the economic problems arose, local governments were no longer able to foot the bill, and the federal government has failed to step up and correct the problems. 

Regarding the overall infrastructure in the United States, the current report card grade is D+. This grade includes roads and bridges, waterways and dams, parks and recreation, and other infrastructure components.

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