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How Congress may tackle America's crumbling infrastructure

Transportation in the U.S. could be set for a big overhaul
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Posted at 2:02 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 17:02:49-04

WASHINGTON — It's no secret that America's infrastructure is in pretty bad shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave the United States a C-minus for our infrastructure.

Every two minutes, a water main break happens somewhere in the United States. Over 46,000 bridges are considered "structurally deficient."

How much do these cost drivers?

"That’s costing the average motorists in the country $1,000 per year because of bad road conditions," Casey Dinges, an adviser with the American Society of Civil Engineers, said.

TIMELINE FOR BILL

Right now, lawmakers are debating behind the scenes how to introduce a major infrastructure bill. Such a bill has been talked about for years, but it is growing in popularity as a major way to boost jobs and the economy during a pandemic.

Early May is when some progressives would like a vote, although it's an issue that will likely take months to finalize if enough lawmakers can be convinced.

If Democrats are unable to come up with a bipartisan package, they would likely try to use reconciliation to pass it, which means 51 votes would be needed instead of the usual 60.

But even some moderate Democrats have expressed concern about spending trillions more after a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill was passed.

WHAT COULD CHANGE

Assuming enough lawmakers could be convinced, a complete overhaul will likely be discussed -- impacting roads, bridges, mass transit, trains and even bike lanes.

"It is going to happen," said John Roberts Smith, a representative for Transportation for America who has been lobbying lawmakers for years.

One reason Smith believes it will take place? President Joe Biden, who famously took the Amtrak from Delaware to Washington nearly every day while he was in the Senate, is now in the Oval Office.

"For passenger rail, we are so lucky to be working on the president’s favorite project," Smith said.

Smith is particularly optimistic when it comes to rail travel and has already provided some suggestions on new routes that can be created.

Areas like Colorado Springs to Denver, Billings to Bozeman, and even Mobile to New Orleans he says should be looked at.

"Today, you cannot leave an economy marooned with only the personal automobile to get in and out of the place you live," Smith said.

For mass transit riders like Ronald Thompson, he hopes Congress thinks of the millions of people who do not own a car as well.

Thompson takes a bus or train nearly everyday and believes they are more environmentally friendly and more efficient.

"A lot of people who travel to and from work rely on public transit to get there," Thompson, who lives in Washington, D.C. said.