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Opinion
Peter R. Orszag

America’s Bridges Need Greater Investment to Survive

New arguments that U.S. physical infrastructure is nothing to worry about ignore the threats of age and climate change.

A bridge’s worst-case scenario.

A bridge’s worst-case scenario.

Photographer: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

In the debate over President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and climate bill, it was perhaps inevitable that some policy makers would object to including anything other than traditional infrastructure such as roads and bridges. More surprising is what I’ll call the “new pundit view,” which casts doubt about spending in precisely that narrow category. This is a perspective based on very imperfect data. Especially given the severe weather that climate change is likely to bring, the White House infrastructure and climate plan is right to spend more to repair and improve roads and bridges.

The national news media and politicians typically decry the poor quality of U.S. physical infrastructure, often referring to the abysmal grades it receives from the American Society of Civil Engineers (this year’s mark was a C-minus). So you might think Biden’s proposed $115 billion investment in roads and bridges would be uncontroversial.