Mike DeLacey, president of Microdesk spoke about Microdesk’s recent survey that highlights the American public’s concern over infrastructure failures and the lack of government funding.
Last year, DeLacey said Microdesk conducted a survey of design and construction professionals to see what their thoughts were on the decline of infrastructure in the U.S. This year the general public was surveyed. “Some of the primary things the general public recognizes is that there are some real challenges around real quality in the U.S. infrastructure,” said DeLacey. “They feel our infrastructure isn’t where we want it to be but don’t recognize how bad it actually is.”
93% of the general public surveyed believe that the federal government should take the primary role in doing something about the failing infrastructure. The survey is intended to bring awareness to the public and the government, so that hopefully the information will help result in transportation bills to meet the funding requirements.
In addition to the fact that most bridges in the U.S. are 50 years old or older, and are not up to safety standards, natural disasters occurring in increasing frequency have highlighted this situation. The current infrastructure, which includes roads, bridges and energy (power and water), cannot withstand natural disasters.
“We’re going in and repairing things after the fact, but we don’t have the plan for preparing before the fact. That’s what we’re trying to shine the spotlight on,” said DeLacey. “We have the ability to do things proactively rather than waiting for things to happen and then coming up with emergency response to that.”
U.S. infrastructure ranks a surprising 15th among world economies, as emerging countries have newer infrastructure. “Many of them invest a percentage of GDP considerably more than the U.S., 3-4 times more, so they are building new infrastructure at a very rapid pace. The U.S. infrastructure mostly is 40-50 years old, and we are investing a very small percentage of the GDP to maintain and replace it.”
Most bridges have a 50-year lifespan and are coming to the end of that lifespan. New technology and materials can be used to make the bridges of the future last longer. However, there is always a tradeoff between costs, quality, longevity, and the question is if the goal is to maintain something as inexpensively as possible to extend lifespan, or put something new in place that will last 50 years, or to put something in place that will last a 100 years. Do we have a comprehensive plan to deal with the fact that the infrastructure is coming to the end of life? What is the plan?
93% of respondents think the government should take the lead role in delivering that funding, however, we currently have a federal government that is shut down.
Private funding has been a way for the federal government to shirk responsibility for critical infrastructure, but 68% disagree that improvements should be provided by the private sector. As those entities take responsibility for roads and bridges, they create toll roads, and that way citizens are paying double for infrastructure – to the federal government through taxes, and tolls via the states and private companies.
The following is Microdesk’s press release on this topic:
NEW YORK, Sept. 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Microdesk, a leading provider of business and technology consulting services to help firms successfully plan, design, build and operate land and buildings, today unveiled the results of its 2013 “State of the Industry” survey. The survey1 of over 2,000 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted online in August by Harris Interactive on behalf of Microdesk, asked questions regarding their sentiments on a wide range of issues, from what infrastructure is believed to be at greatest risk to how improvements should be facilitated.
Following a year in which Americans witnessed the devastating impact of natural disasters including Hurricane Sandy and infrastructure failures such as bridge and building collapses throughout the country, the survey revealed Americans are keenly aware of the country’s failing infrastructure system.
Where U.S. Infrastructure Stands: Americans Recognize Dismal State
- A 2013 report from The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave U.S. infrastructure a “D+” grade based on condition and needed fiscal investments. According to the survey results, Americans’ sentiments echo the ASCE’s findings, with 77 percent giving infrastructure a “C” grade or below.
- The World Economic Forum’s 2013-2014 Global Competitive Report ranked infrastructure in America as 15th among world economies, behind Singapore, United Arab Emirates and others. Americans also recognize that the U.S. is falling behind. Only 20 percent think the U.S. ranks first or among the top five.
Infrastructure Challenges: Americans Show Concern on Bridges, Roads
- As America’s infrastructure system faces increased scrutiny, 41 percent of Americans believe that bridges will be most vulnerable to damage and decay. 26 percent believe that roads will be most vulnerable.
- Asked to provide insight on what three types of infrastructure systems should receive government funding, sentiment again heavily leaned towards bridges and roads. The results of where funding should go include:
- Bridges (63 percent)
- Roads (57 percent)
- Energy systems (37 percent)
- Americans, overwhelmingly concerned with bridges, believe the average age of U.S. bridges is 48 years old. The ASCE sites the average age is 42, indicating Americans may be overly cautious on bridge viability and recognize most are nearing the end of their typical 50-year design life.
Tools For Change: Americans Look to Technology, Government
- Americans rank major infrastructure failures as their greatest infrastructure-related concern (32 percent), followed by tax increases due to repairs needed (20 percent).
- Overwhelmingly, 93 percent of Americans feel that the government should play any primary role in helping guide U.S. infrastructure improvement.
- While President Obama made unsuccessful attempts to call on lawmakers to approve funding this past year, the survey reveals a majority of Americans (41 percent) believe the lack of funding for proper maintenance is the greatest risk to the U.S. infrastructure system.
- As concern mounts around major infrastructure failures, and the associated costs, Americans identify the following solutions for getting America’s infrastructure back on its feet:
- Technology: a majority (90 percent) agrees that technology plays an important part in improving the quality of U.S. infrastructure.
- Private vs. Public Funding: 68 percent disagree that improvements should be financed by private funding, not government funding.
- Regulation: 75 percent agree that increased government attention in the form of laws and funding is needed to improve the quality of infrastructure.
“After a hard year in which Americans experienced the devastating effects of everything from hurricanes and tornados to bridge failures and train derailments, there is a strong awareness that our infrastructure system is in serious danger,” said Michael DeLacey, President, Microdesk. “Our consumer survey shows that Americans are looking for a combination of government leadership and funding, along with new technologies, to get U.S. infrastructure back on its feet. This mirrors the sentiment we saw in our first State of the Industry survey2, as well as other recent polls of architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry professionals. As consumer awareness grows, now is the time for a serious discussion around next steps.”
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