One of the goals of the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure is to educate policy makers and elected officials on the need to invest in our infrastructure and inspire them to take action. During this presidential election season, many of the candidates have talked about infrastructure. Those conversations are a great sign that Americans are thinking about the importance of infrastructure and the need to improve it and candidates are being asked to share their ideas.
In the past week, both the Republicans and Democrats have held debates in Michigan, a state which has been at the forefront of national news regarding water infrastructure over the past several months. In addition to the water infrastructure issues Flint is facing, last year the state legislature finally passed a surface transportation package after many years of inaction and decades of underinvestment.
During the Republican Debate, held at the Fox Theater in Detroit—along the route of the streetcar that’s scheduled to open later this year—Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was asked “Where are the national Republicans’ plans on infrastructure and solving problems like [Flint]?” The Senator answered by discussing the importance of accountability at all levels of government. A few days earlier, Donald Trump talked about infrastructure while answering questions during his Super Tuesday victory speech. During his remarks he commented “You look at the transportation systems they have [around the world] and the trains they have. We’re like a third world country.”
The Democratic Debate took place in Flint, the city that has sparked national attention regarding lead in drinking water. Both democratic candidates have put forth infrastructure plans of their own. Several minutes of the debate were dedicated to the state of our nation’s infrastructure. First, Secretary Hillary Clinton was asked if her plan was big enough to tackle the needs. Clinton mentioned that the surface transportation bill finally passed after becoming a far more partisan issue than it should have been. She continued, that she would like to go further by adding an additional $250 billion on top of the FAST Act and creating a National Infrastructure Bank, which she foresees leveraging $25 billion of federal investments into $250 billion for infrastructure projects. Clinton concluded that there’s “no doubt” more needs to be done on our infrastructure from roads to airports to tunnels to water systems. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was then asked about his $1 trillion proposal. He answered by highlighting the American Society of Civil Engineers’ estimate that $3.6 trillion of investment is needed to improve our infrastructure to a grade of B and pointed out that such investment would put Americans to work in good-paying jobs.
Debate questions focusing on infrastructure are a positive indicator that the conversation of infrastructure investment is getting serious attention. It’s also a good reminder that while the FAST Act and state infrastructure legislation are to be applauded, there is still much more that needs to be done to modernize our nation’s infrastructure. You can do something about it right now by educating yourself on presidential candidates’ infrastructure plans and writing your elected leaders about the need to improve infrastructure.