Opinion: Political pothole slows infrastructure drive

It’s a slogan whose pithiness is exceeded by its expressed truth: “The future won’t wait. Neither can we. It’s #TimeToBuild.”

That’s a fitting message for National Infrastructure Week, and especially so given the precarious, if not dilapidated, state of too much of this nation’s public framework that all of us use daily. Roads, bridges and other transportation systems being chief among them.

Any rattled motorist who’s pounded across a pothole, or metro Atlanta resident who’s suffered the effects of a water main break or sewer overflow knows that America’s unsung systems are too often neglected until they fail. When that happens, we feel the pain caused by broken infrastructure afflicted for too long by benign neglect. A strategy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can, yes, save taxpayer money — in the short-run. In the longer-term, the truism of “pay me now, or pay me later” catches up with us.

A nonprofit umbrella group promotes Infrastructure Week and it’s notable that its steering committee includes a big tent of entities that, in this divided time, might be thought to be odd roommates, from construction firms to labor unions. That suggests a refreshingly diverse, bipartisan group that’s coalesced around common interests and intent.

Creating a broad prosperity and jobs are among those underpinnings. The organization says this on its website: “Our voices – from every facet of America’s economy, workforce, and communities – are united to make the case for investing in the transportation, water, energy, and communications systems that keep America competitive, prosperous, and safe.”

Our politicians might take a lesson from that, given that it was announced last week that a long-discussed national infrastructure spending plan is unlikely to happen in 2018.

Happily, in Georgia, lawmakers and voters have approved funding streams such as dedicated sales and fuel taxes that are enabling some needed transportation repairs and upgrades.

There’s still a strong place for national policy here, though. America’s, and Georgia’s critical infrastructure needs should not have to wait much longer for needed reinforcements. The Beltway can do better.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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