With only a few months to go before Americans head to the polls, casting their ballots for who they'd like to see serve as commander in chief for the next four years, surveys suggest that the nation is deeply divided. Passions run deep on what the electorate believes is the best path forward. But there is one thing that both sides of the aisle seem to agree on: The country's infrastructure needs fixing, especially the variety that Americans drive on each and every day.
Between 80 and 90 percent of registered voters believe that the nation's roads and bridges are in poor shape, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). Additionally, in the past five years, more than 45 percent believe conditions have gotten progressively worse due to overuse.
Of course, local and state governments are charged with ensuring that transportation areas are well-maintained, which is why when asked who they think is responsible, nearly 50 percent pointed to the public sector.
"Americans across the political spectrum understand the dire state of U.S. infrastructure and believe that the federal government should do more to improve our infrastructure," said Dennis Slater, AEM president. "Voters recognized that increased federal funding for assets such as roads, bridges, and inland waterways will have a positive impact on the economy, and they are looking to the federal government to repair and modernize."
Nearly 60,000 bridges need repair work
Every year, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association releases a report, detailing the overall upkeep of roads and bridges that Americans traverse on a daily basis. As of 2015, thanks in part to the efforts of local, state and federal governments, there were nearly 2,600 fewer bridges deemed "structurally deficient" compared to 2014. This suggests that the government, and likely some private contractors, increased their efforts to shore up the transportation infrastructure.
Still, there are over 58,500 roads and bridges that need to be repaired soon before they become public safety concerns.
ARTBA chief economist Alison Premo Black indicated that even though there's really no way to prevent transportation infrastructure from deteriorating at some point, as this is a natural part of wear and tear, the fact that tens of thousands still need addressing is worrisome.
"The funding made available won't come close to making an accelerated national bridge repair program possible," Black explained, alluding to the federal highway bill that was passed late last year by lawmakers in Washington and signed by President Barack Obama. "It's going to take major new investments by all levels of government to move toward eliminating the huge backlog of bridge work in the United States."
There are around 610,000 bridges currently in operation throughout the country. Of these, nearly 10 percent are structurally deficient, according to ARTBA's analysis.
Some states are more in need of infrastructure-related repairs than others. For instance, in Iowa, around 5,000 bridges require fixing, more than any other state, followed by Pennsylvania with 4,783, Missouri with 3,222, Nebraska at 2,474 and Kansas with 2,303, ARTBA's report detailed.
All levels of government are responsible
Consumers, for the most part, believe that there isn't any single element of government that is more responsible than the other for funding these fixes. Rather, it's a shared responsibility. In the AEM survey, 76 percent of respondents thought state governments should become more involved than they are already, while roughly the same amount – 72 percent – wanted the federal government to step up its efforts. Seventy percent agreed local public officials ought to increase their efforts.
As for the states where drivers are the least and most likely to be satisfied with the shape of roadways and bridges, few in Rhode Island are pleased with how things are going. Only 31 percent of Rhode Islanders are happy with the transportation system in the Ocean State, with 68 percent dissatisfied, according to a survey done earlier this year by Gallup. This aligns with ARTBA's findings, which determined that Rhode Island has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the country at 23 percent.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, North Dakotans are largely happy with roadway conditions at 81 percent saying they're satisfied, Gallup found. Only 19 percent were dissatisfied. Around 15 percent of bridges in the Roughrider State are structurally deficient, according to ARTBA's findings.
Transportation industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.