Substantial Investments Needed for Infrastructure, ASCE Report Says

TransAm Trucking truck on bridge
A TransAm Trucking vehicle crosses an Interstate 40 overpass in Del City, Okla. (Oklahoma Department of Transportation)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Failure to invest in long-term infrastructure upgrades will likely result in trillions of dollars in lost business productivity and severely disrupt the movement of people and freight, the American Society of Civil Engineers warned in its new report.

A decline in business productivity of about $23 trillion over the next two decades is projected absent sizable funding injections that would remedy roads, bridges, tunnels, ports, power grids and water systems, the group of engineers concluded in “Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems.” Additionally, allowing subpar infrastructure through 2039 could lead to a loss of $10 trillion in gross domestic product, costing most households more than $3,000 annually.

Researchers also noted planned investments totaling about $7.3 trillion would still result in a $5.6 trillion investment gap by 2039. The report was unveiled Jan. 12.

“Businesses and households face higher costs due to several factors, including unreliable transportation services, less reliable water and electricity services, as well as unmet maintenance needs and outdated facilities for airports, seaports and on inland waterways,” according to the report. “These costs absorb funds from businesses that would otherwise be directed to investment or research and development and from households that would go toward discretionary consumer purchases.”

Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems by Transport Topics on Scribd

Of emphasis were growing concerns with congestion across surface transportation modes, ports, airports and last-mile freight facilities. In the event various aspects of the mobility grid are hindered or disabled simultaneously, regional economies would experience slowdowns.

“America’s infrastructure bill is overdue, and we have been ignoring it for years,” Tom Smith, ASCE executive director, said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.



Smith continued, “There’s no better way to jump-start the economy, while also lessening the financial burden on businesses and families, than by making a down payment on our infrastructure now — transit systems, bridges, water treatment plants and the grid — to ensure these systems are sustainable, resilient and safe for communities across the nation.”

Proposed remedies include the adoption of measures at the federal level backed by long-term sources of funding, as well as investment in commercial infrastructure networks that boost reliability and avoid increased costs to businesses and consumers. Annual investments to transit networks that lead to workforce stability, adequate mobility options and quality of life improvements also are urged.

“The U.S. economy relies on low transportation costs and the reliable delivery of clean water and electricity to businesses and households to offset higher wages and production costs when compared to many of our international competitors,” the report said. “Analyses show that business costs and prices will increase if surface transportation systems worsen, ports and inland waterways become outdated or congested, and if water, wastewater and electricity infrastructure systems deteriorate or fail to keep up with changing demand.”


How can we control an unruly trucking tech stack and streamline fleet management practices? Host Seth Clevenger speaks with Ray Greer, CEO of Omnitracs, which acquired SmartDrive last year. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to

After failing to advance a multiyear highway policy bill last year, federal lawmakers pledged to this year clear for the next president comprehensive surface transportation legislation. A massive infrastructure policy package with a focus on severe-weather resilience also is on the incoming Biden administration’s radar, Transportation Secretary-designee Pete Buttigieg recently indicated.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a member of the House Ways and Means tax policy panel, applauded ASCE’s report. The longtime proponent of increasing funding for infrastructure projects noted such sound investments would assist with concerns related to the economy, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change: “It’s an opportunity for us to deal with underserved communities, providing job opportunities that deal with environmental justice for people that are looking for these infrastructure programs that meet needs,” he said.

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing: