No one in this country is unaffected by the current infrastructure crisis. You see it when you drive past a public school. You worry about it when you drive across a bridge. You can feel it when you drive over a pothole. But there are many facets to our country’s infrastructure, and they are all in desperate need of repair.
In this article, a Miami construction lawyer at Cotney Construction Law will be discussing the current state of America’s infrastructure and the challenges that the construction industry faces in tackling this crisis. Construction companies, contractors, and suppliers can’t face these challenges alone. For an ally that will stand by you in a time of crisis, partner with the Miami construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law.
What Is Considered Infrastructure?
Merriam-Webster defines infrastructure as “the system of public works of a country, state, or region.” You’re mistaken if you believe infrastructure only applies to transit. America’s infrastructure includes aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, wastewater, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, and public transit — everything that our country needs to run properly. As we’ll see below, fixing these systems will require construction companies to be at the top of their game. To ensure that your company is prepared to face anything and everything that this industry can throw at it, consult with a Miami construction attorney.
The Current Crisis
America’s infrastructure powers your home, offers a variety of travel options, and provides your family with clean drinking water. If just one of these systems fails, it could mean catastrophe for local populations and our economy at large. Unfortunately, all of these systems are failing to make the grade. The American Society of Civil Engineers has released a report grading the systems that makeup America’s infrastructure. The grades are as follows:
- Aviation: D
While airliners have kept up with advancements, airports and air traffic control systems have been left in the past. As these systems continue to fall behind, airport congestion will grow, and travelers will continue to experience flight delays, especially around the holidays.
- Bridges: C+
Nearly 4 in 10 of America’s 614,387 bridges are more than 50 years old. Even if repairs are kept up with, many of these bridges are approaching the end of their lifespan. Floridians are no strangers to bridge collapse, and ignoring these issues can lead to deadly consequences.
- Dams: D
The age of our nation’s dams is even greater than that of bridges at 56 years on average. Dams play a vital role in diverting water from living areas and producing electricity. As Dams continue to age, they will pose a growing threat to public safety.
- Drinking Water: D
Many of the pipes that deliver our drinking water are nearly a century old. While the quality of our drinking water remains high, nearly two trillion gallons of water is wasted every year due to water main breaks that demand attention.
- Energy: D+
America’s energy system is in desperate need of an upgrade. Much of our country’s electric transmission and distribution lines are operating at full capacity and well past their lifespan. Americans will begin to experience an increase in power outages unless our country invests in renewable energy.
- Hazardous Waste: D+
22 million acres of land are allocated to containing our nation’s hazardous waste. Believe it or not, there’s a good chance that you live within three miles of a hazardous waste site. While there have been significant improvements to material management, funding needs to keep up with the demands of over 18,000 sites that are devoted to our nation’s hazardous waste programs.
- Levees: D
30,000 miles of levees protect over a trillion dollars worth of property. Like dam systems, funding will need to be increased to improve our system of levees and avert potential disaster. It’s easy to forget about these systems until their failure leads to widespread flooding, property damage, and loss of life.
- Public Parks: D+
America’s parks and recreation facilities do more than just provide Americans with breathtaking locations for their family outings. These areas filter drinking water, support local economies, and are a refuge for wildlife. Even systems that may seem nonessential are pivotal to our nation’s success.
- Ports: C+
Virtually all of our overseas trade passes through our system of ports, which directly contribute to over a quarter of the U.S. economy. Investing in our ports could decrease ship congestion, provide access for larger ships, and bolster our economy.
- Inland Waterways: D
Our nation’s inland waterways play an important role in delivering freight and employ over half a million workers. It could take decades to fix our waterways, many of which are comprised of aging locks and dams. Like many other systems on this list, inland waterways support careers as well as commerce.
- Rail: B
America’s rail system is vital to the transportation of U.S. exports, freight, and passengers. While rail scores better than all other categories, passenger rail, in particular, is aging and in need of funding.
- Roads: D
A lack of funding for American roadways has lead to poor conditions, congestion, traffic delays, and air pollution. Failure to repair our roadways has lead to an increase in traffic fatalities and more dangerous commutes for Americans.
- Schools: D+
According to the report, the condition of nearly a quarter of U.S. public schools is below fair. Despite the consistent adage that “children are our future,” America continues to underinvest in its school systems.
- Solid Waste: C+
Slightly over a third of America’s solid waste is being recycled, and a small fraction is being used for energy production. While much of our solid waste is overseen by private companies, we must continue to focus on reusing and recycling efforts.
- Transit: D-
More Americans every year are turning to public transit to get around. However, many communities lack access to the public transit needed for commuters to travel to work, school, and home. While demand has increased, funding remains low.
- Wastewater: D+
Wastewater is actually one of the most important infrastructure systems. America’s 14,748 wastewater treatment plants serve over three-quarters of the population and are crucial for improving water quality and removing potentially harmful toxins and pollutants.
Causes and Consequences
Overall, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives America’s Infrastructure a grade of D+. Our country received the same grade four years prior, which shows little to no improvement. This is a complex issue, and there isn’t just one problem that we can point the finger at in blame.
Among the many issues at play, corrosion is a major part of America’s infrastructure problems, costing nearly $500 billion a year in damage. This natural process can cause damage ranging from a rusted bike chain to a collapsed bridge. Future laborers will need to be trained in corrosion prevention techniques. As you know, failure to properly train your workforce can result in a fine from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). To ensure that you remain compliant with all OSHA regulations, consult with one of our Miami construction attorneys.
The consequences of our country’s failure to address these issues are widespread. Our infrastructure supports not only our economy but also our national defense. These systems are like a series of dominoes, and, when one system goes, it could topple others. Our fractured road systems alone are leading to delays, car accidents, air and noise pollution, and billions of gallons of wasted gas. Not to mention the threat to life that many of these failing structures present. It’s easy to look at a bridge or dam collapse and think, I’m glad that didn’t happen to me. It’s much harder to tackle these issues head-on.
There’s clear room for improvement when it comes to America’s infrastructure. The public will continue to be divided on who should pay for repairs, and lawmakers will continue to debate over funding. But, ultimately, it will be the construction industry that takes up the cause of fixing America’s roadways, bridges, and dams. What remains to be seen is if the construction industry is prepared for such a herculean task with a severe shortage of skilled laborers hindering progress. Highly trained workers are in high demand and short supply. As a Miami construction litigation attorney at Cotney Construction Law covered before, construction companies need to think outside the box in order to address growing labor demands.
The real problem is a reluctance to invest in our country’s future. The American populace is reluctant to pay taxes that could go towards public projects. The U.S. government is reluctant to invest in our infrastructure. All told, it would take $4.6 trillion dollars to fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Recently, disaster-relief funds were approved to be allocated to infrastructure problems that resulted from hurricanes and flooding. But this is just a bandaid, and funding for public works requires more, much more. Investing in our infrastructure would support the economy, provide people with the basic services they need to survive, and allow the construction industry to build the workforce it needs to repair our country’s decaying infrastructure. We must all come together to combat this pressing issue.
A Partner in Any Crisis
Our Miami construction litigation attorneys know all too well that there is no end to the challenges that construction companies have to face. Payment disputes, OSHA violations, and cash flow problems are just a few of the issues that can bankrupt a company long before they have to worry about labor shortages. At Cotney Construction Law, we believe in the construction companies of this industry, and we’re dedicated to and invested in the success of all of our clients. For help with mechanic’s liens, contract review, bid protests, and any other construction-related legal matter, partner with the Miami contractor attorneys at Cotney Construction Law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.