Editor’s Comments: “Beating the Drum, or a Dead Horse?”

June 1, 2017

One of the main highways I use for my daily commute, CA Highway 154, has been almost entirely repaved over the past few years. My drive is 1) smoother, because traffic moves more easily; 2) safer, because the ruts and potholes are gone; and 3) calmer, because of numbers 1 and 2. But I know that is not even the tip of the iceberg.

Here we are in the early stages of another construction season and nearly half a year into the new President’s term, and we have yet to see Federal legislation for infrastructure funding for the country. Like most of us, I’m frustrated and baffled by it. These days, it’s rare to find something that both Republican and Democratic parties agree on, but when it comes to the need for new or rebuilt roads and bridges, electrical grids, underground pipes, airports, etc., it’s a bipartisan issue.

Citizens want action. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) conducted an online national poll of 2,000 registered voters to see how they felt about current and future US infrastructure.

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AEM’s summary of the poll says, in part:

When it comes to funding, half (49 percent) of the surveyed population believes that the federal government is primarily responsible for funding repairs to the nation’s infrastructure, but they also believe that state (76 percent), local (70 percent) and federal (72 percent) government should be doing more to improve infrastructure across the board.

There are notable differences across political affiliation, but when it comes to the quality of roads, bridges and energy grids (the three sectors of infrastructure that first come to mind among registered voters), there is general agreement among Democrats, Independents and Republicans about the quality of each of them.

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Technology is on our side. In this issue, Daniel P. Duffy’s article on machine control and GPS, “Finesse and Brute Force”, explains the increases in efficiency, production, and cost savings to be had with powerful software and sensors. Heavy equipment manufacturers are making their iron more versatile as Lori Lovely’s article on dozers, “No More One Trick Pony”, will tell you. And the tech is continuing to advance, with things such as grade control, building information modeling (BIM), and job site software.

Bipartisanship, popularity, technologically advanced tools—we have all of these advantages working in our favor, ready to tackle the monumental task of rebuilding our infrastructure. We’re just not doing the actual work.

I see our whole industry chomping at the bit, waiting for the flood of work we’re sure is coming our way once there’s funding. Manufacturers are anxious for you to get busy so they can equip you. Tech companies continue to innovate to make it easier to fill the job skills gap.

Does it do any good to get angry? I guess that depends on what you do with that anger. You could let it inspire you to contact your state and federal lawmakers. You can urge your local news outlets to do stories or Op-Eds on failing infrastructure. And you can remember that we’re not alone in this—AEM’s poll shows 80–90% of registered voters say roads, bridges, and energy grids are in some or extreme need of repairs.

But interestingly, the poll also shows there’s a difference in what motivates people to support increased federal funding. For example, when told that one out of every nine bridges is structurally deficient and some drinking water pipes are more than 100 years old, more than half of the people polled are willing to support increased funding. But when they’re told that China spends roughly 9% of its budget on infrastructure while the United States spends less than 2%, the people who support extra funding drops to less than half.

I say, push all the buttons we can to get this thing going.
About the Author

Arturo Santiago

Arturo Santiago is the Managing Editor of Grading and Excavation Contractor and MSW Management magazines.