By Brenda Lawrence & Ken Rigmaiden
April 11, 2019 at 5:00 am ET
As residents of Michigan and Maryland, we have seen firsthand the pain that poorly executed construction can inflict on everyday people.
If a water main breaks in a neighborhood where folks are just scraping by, it is not only an inconvenience; it could result in a business closing forever. When roads are in disrepair, cars are damaged and traffic gridlock causes untenable delays. Structurally unsound bridges are unsafe and increase the cost of goods to consumers. The lesson never changes: When the work isn’t done right to begin with, or when we don’t take the time and money to care for what we have, eventually, someone has to foot the bill. That someone is the American worker and taxpayer.
Our crumbling infrastructure is one of the most significant problems facing the United States. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the American infrastructure gap will result in $3.9 trillion in losses to U.S. gross domestic product, $7 trillion in lost business sales and $2.5 million in lost American jobs by 2025.
Congress must appropriate funds to repair, revitalize and maintain our urban and transportation structures. The data speaks for itself: Funding appropriated without a mandate for quality work is not money well spent. We need to fund projects that need fixes, and we need to fix the way we fund projects.
A lack of proper standards to address corrosion prevention and repair is one of the most pervasive issues affecting our nation’s infrastructure. Corrosion costs the U.S. economy nearly $500 billion each year due to 54,000 structurally deficient bridges and roads across the country. It would take an estimated $1 trillion to conduct the repairs and replacements caused to wastewater infrastructure, an issue that, if left unaddressed, will continue to result in 240,000 water main breaks every year.
Degradation of infrastructure is often the result of a lack of corrosion prevention initiatives, simple mistakes during the construction process and delayed maintenance. In India and Italy, we’ve recently seen the devastating toll on human life when corrosion is ignored. The United States is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and we cannot subject American lives to the same tragedies. Policy should set a tone that best practices, quality work by certified corrosion specialists and proactive management are required, so we can ensure careless oversights no longer happen.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act and House Transportation Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills should therefore incorporate language that requires the highest industry standards in corrosion prevention, maintenance and safety.
Ultimately, insisting that these anti-corrosion standards and processes are approved ensures public well-being and saves taxpayer dollars. Closing the infrastructure gap could save families up to $3,400 a year in disposable income. National Association of Corrosion Engineers International, the trusted industry expert on corrosion-control solutions and protective coatings safety standards, estimates that global savings realized through corrosion control could save at least $375 billion, and potentially as much as $875 billion.
We know that subpar standards and requirements were a mistake in the past. Now, the future of America’s infrastructure and “rebuilding the right way” means advocating that the best possible methods are used for federal and federally funded projects, and putting corrosion safety controls at the forefront of that conversation.
Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence is a Democrat who represents Michigan’s 14th Congressional District. Ken Rigmaiden is general president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
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