Planning and building infrastructure have been part of America's tradition -- and greatness -- since the founding of the Republic. Our earliest leaders recognized the need to invest in road networks to serve the needs of the colonies, water systems to serve growing cities, canals to facilitate trade, railroads and telegraph lines to open up the West, and dams to encourage settlement and generate power.
The challenges of the 21st century -- global warming, water stress, energy insecurity and a global economy in crisis -- require a renewed national focus on the infrastructure that is essential to our cities, our rural communities, and our economy.
Unfortunately, we have neglected the state of America's infrastructure far too long, threatening our economic prosperity and the future of our communities, urban and rural. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given our nation's public infrastructure -- water, sewer, and transportation systems -- a grade of D-minus, estimating that it will cost $1.6 trillion over the next five years just to repair the infrastructure we currently have. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission recently calculated that it will take $225 billion annually just to maintain our existing transportation system over the next 50 years.
A warming climate creates more demands on our infrastructure. Communities will require more energy-efficient transportation systems that produce fewer carbon emissions; additional water storage capacity; and stronger levees and dams to protect homes and businesses from unpredictable and increasingly severe weather events.
The future of America depends on transportation systems that connect and support the economies of our communities and metropolitan regions; water systems that ensure clean water for our households and crops; sewer systems that ensure public health and a clean environment; and dams and levees that protect our homes and businesses.
If we are to meet the demands of the 21st century, we need a new National Plan to define and finance the infrastructure required to support a sustainable economy, improve the livability of our cities and rural communities, provide jobs for Americans, and strengthen our national security.