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The time to invest in our nation’s infrastructure is now

Aging infrastructure and the need for increased infrastructure spending has turned into one of the most talked about topics in America today, with much of our nation’s infrastructure in need of repair or replacement.

Aging infrastructure and the need for increased infrastructure spending has turned into one of the most talked about topics in America today, with much of our nation’s infrastructure in need of repair or replacement.

Substantial evidence exists that U.S. water infrastructure, a backbone of the American economy, is in need of a cash infusion. The average age of the 84,000 dams in the U.S. is over 50 years old, and more than 2,000 dams are rated as deficient high-hazard dams. Addressing this problem is estimated to cost more than $20 billion. Additionally, an estimated 240,000 water main breaks occur each year and a major overhaul would easily cost in the hundreds of billions. Significant capital investment needs to be made for the nation’s wastewater and stormwater systems too, estimated to cost nearly $300 billion over the next 20 years. 

Like our water systems, our transportation systems are also in need of attention. One in nine U.S. bridges are structurally deficient; roads are more congested than ever, costing Americans approximately $100 billion annually in wasted time and fuel; and airport delays are dragging the U.S. economy down by an estimated $22 billion.

Fortunately, the Trump administration is moving forward with its plans to invest in infrastructure and has begun circulating a list of 50 high-profile projects across the country, with a projected value of $137.5 billion.

Since the public sector alone does not have the financial means to address the significant backlog of projects, a more cooperative arrangement is required to improve the current condition of our nation’s infrastructure. To that end, the administration’s 50 high-profile projects, including the $12 billion Gateway project along with numerous other water and transportation projects, require 50% of the money to come from private investment.

With a greater reliance on public-private partnerships, communities and businesses around America will begin to see real progress in the maintenance and modernization of critical infrastructure. These partnerships are not a fit for every municipality, and each project presents a unique set of circumstances, but it is possible to take some large projects out of the existing backlog with innovative frameworks that leverage private investment.

To help move some of these initiatives and partnerships forward, I, along with a number of industry leaders, was recently appointed to the Board of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy (CPIP). Formed to connect global infrastructure leaders, CPIP is working to develop new policy approaches, educational programs and outreach efforts to address aging infrastructure and the delivery of critical infrastructure services. In addition to participating in these types of organizations to raise awareness for the much needed investment in our nation’s infrastructure, CH2M is dedicated to working with our clients and industry partners to elevate the conversation on infrastructure investment.

Thoughtful and planned infrastructure development holds the promise of contributing to the nation’s growth, creating jobs and fueling local economies. Investments made today will determine not only whether we have clean water to drink and safe roads to travel—they will provide the foundation for America’s future prosperity.

Explore all our capabilities, see our projects and learn about exciting careers offered at CH2M.

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Peter Nicol

Global Practice Director
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