“So my message to the American people is this: America is moving again, and your life is going to change for the better”. This is what President Biden said while welcoming the approval of the US government’s impressive recovery plan to rebuild the backbone of the USA, a nation that has become famous for its endless roads, but whose infrastructure system is now outdated and not up to its economic ambitions.
According to the Word Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2020, the United States ranked 31st among developed countries for infrastructure modernisation. Road and railway infrastructures are in the worst state. On November 16th, President Biden managed to get the political parties to agree on a joint plan, the so-called Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, amounting to USD 1,200 billion – of which USD 550 billion will be made available over the next five years. The plan aims to innovate the US infrastructure system along the sustainability and digitalisation paths and will lead to greater federal spending, from 0.8% to 1.3% of GDP in the next five years from 2022 to 2026.
The draft has been welcomed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which assigned a “C-” score to the American infrastructure system in a recent report. Against this backdrop, the plan will have a wide-ranging reach: planned investments include USD 110 billion for the upkeep of the federal road network and bridges, USD 17 billion for the renovation of ports in order to boost trade, while further USD 48 billion will be allocated to water infrastructure and USD 25 billion to airport modernisation.
Speaking in a recent interview with National Public Radio, ASCE President Greg DiLoreto pointed out that it will be essential to employ new construction methods and new materials to counteract climate change’s effects by building resilient infrastructure. In the green transition framework, USD 65 billion will be allocated to the modernisation of the country’s electricity grid, with enabling technologies for the development of smart grids, which are key to generating clean energy.
The funding will be allocated through a wide range of programmes, mostly managed by the US Department of Transportation and state-level transportation agencies. As DiLoreto explained, although either local governments or the private sector owns most of the infrastructure in the US, the Federal government plays a key role in ensuring all States have an adequate infrastructure system. The plan approved in November will therefore give new momentum to infrastructure investments which has been suffering from a severe deficit in recent years, so much so that, according to an ASCE analysis, USD 2.600 billion will actually be needed to make up the gap over the next ten years.