Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report for 2015 ranks the U.S.'s overall infrastructure at 12th in the world, Sanders points out. (Photo: Michael Cornelius/flickr/cc)

After Bridge Disaster, Sanders Calls for $1 Trillion to Address Infrastructure Collapse

"Deteriorating infrastructure does not magically get better by ignoring it," says senator

Deirdre Fulton

In an op-ed published Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pointed to Monday's Cincinnati bridge collapse, which killed one person, as further evidence that the U.S. desperately needs to upgrade its infrastructure—from bridges and roads to railways and levees.

"Our infrastructure is collapsing, and the American people know it," wrote Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "The Interstate 75 bridge collapse in Cincinnati on Monday is only the latest example."

The Cincinnati overpass, which was undergoing demolition, collapsed late Monday and killed a construction worker.

While the overpass did not appear to have any structural issues, one of nine bridges in the U.S. is in fact structurally deficient and nearly a quarter are functionally obsolete, Sanders said—illustrating his point: "For many years we have underfunded the maintenance of our nation's physical infrastructure. That has to change. It is time to rebuild America."

Sanders said he will soon announce legislation for a $1 trillion investment, over five years, to modernize the country's physical infrastructure and create 13 million jobs.

In 2013, the American Civil Society of Engineers gave the U.S. a D+ grade on its infrastructure, estimating that $3.6 trillion in investment was necessary to fix the nation's highways, dams, rail and aviation systems, and more.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced new steps, as part of the Build America Investment Initiative, to improve ports, roads, bridges, broadband networks, drinking water and sewer systems, and other projects.

But Obama's proposals show that "progressives will be on their own in the battle to boost public investment in our public assets," progressive analyst Isaiah Poole wrote last week. 

Of the initiatives announced last Friday—an infrastructure bonds program designed to attract private financing for transportation projects and a new Water Finance System at EPA to improve drinking and waste water systems across the country—Poole said:

These are workarounds for the combination of cowardice and obstructionism that has kept the federal government from doing what it used to do reasonably well and what it must learn how to do even better today: fund infrastructure in a way that serves the public interest, supports a growing economy and puts people back to work at good-paying jobs.

Leading the obstruction, of course, is conservatives in Congress, some of whom go beyond saying we can’t afford the additional $1 trillion we should be spending on our transportation, water and electrical networks between now and 2020 to saying we shouldn’t spend those dollars at the federal level even if we could afford it—that the main task of improving our infrastructure should be left to states, localities and the private sector.

But the U.S. already spends a paltry amount on such projects, Sanders said.

"The United States now spends just 2.4 percent of GDP on infrastructure, less than at any point in the last 20 years," he argued. "Europe spends twice that amount, and China spends close to four times our rate. We are falling further and further behind, and the longer we wait, the more it will cost us later. Deteriorating infrastructure does not magically get better by ignoring it."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo