President Obama’s plan to kickstart the economy and put the American people back to work includes investing in the nation’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, which, as studies have shown, is in need of as much as $2 trillion in immediate investment just to bring it up to date. In the past, Republicans have agreed that infrastructure improvements are needed, but in the context of economic stimulus and in their effort to remain opposed to anything Obama offers, they have chosen to ignore the nation’s infrastructure and jobs crises. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t mean either crisis will go away.
Republican leadership has continually blocked efforts by Obama and Congressional Democrats to invest in infrastructure improvements, and as a result, bridges and roadways in their states are crumbling. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, about 12 percent of the nation’s bridges are considered “structurally deficient,” the same rating given to the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people. Roughly another 12 percent are considered “functionally obsolete.” In four of the five states represented by Republican congressional leadership, the rate of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges outpaces the national average. ThinkProgress compiled a breakdown of the status of roads and bridges in each of those five states and, where applicable, individual congressional districts:
OHIO: 27 percent of the bridges Speaker John Boehner’s home state of Ohio are either “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,” while one-fourth of its roads are considered poor or mediocre. At the heart of the Midwest, Ohio’s share of the national highway system has 171 highway bridges that are structurally deficient. 10 of those bridges are located in Boehner’s own district. Indeed, Obama singled out the Brent-Spence bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky as “one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.” A recent Cincinnati Enquirer investigation into the bridge noted that it “is one of only 15 major interstate bridges in the country labeled by the federal government as ‘functionally obsolete’ for failure to meet safety or traffic flow standards.”
KENTUCKY: More than one-third (34 percent) of the bridges in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state are structurally deficient or obsolete, including the Brent-Spence Bridge. Of those bridges, 108 are located on the national highway system, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Nearly one in five of Kentucky’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
VIRGINIA: In House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s home state, 26 percent of bridges are considered structurally deficient or obsolete, 104 of which are on the national highway system. Nearly one in four of the state’s roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition. In Cantor’s congressional district, 11 national highway bridges are considered deficient.
ARIZONA: In Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s home state, 12 percent of the bridges are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” Of those in the national highway system, 25 are structurally deficient. Indeed, a recent report found that the poor rural roads and bridges in Arizona, where 21 percent of roads are considered poor or mediocre, have earned the state the eighth highest rural traffic fatality rate in the nation.
CALIFORNIA: Home to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California is perhaps most in need of infrastructure improvement. Thirty percent of its bridges are “structurally deficient or fundamentally obsolete.” Though a well-traveled state, California has a whopping 976 bridges on its national highways that are structurally deficient; 24 of those bridges are in McCarthy’s district. California ranks 19th in the nation for percentage of rural bridges that are structurally deficient, and two-thirds of its major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
Even as roads and bridges in their states fall apart, Republicans remain opposed to Obama’s efforts to invest in improvement projects. When progressives and Democrats pushed for more infrastructure spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Republicans demanded a bigger emphasis on tax cuts. When House Democrats passed a jobs bill geared toward infrastructure investment in February 2010, Republicans derailed it in the Senate. And unless the GOP undergoes a radical shift in priorities in the next few months, yet another plan that will help solve both America’s infrastructure and jobs crises will die at the hands of Congressional Republicans.
The result, as statistics from these five states show, is that the country continues to watch its infrastructure crumble while leaders in the Republican Party sit idly by, refusing to do anything about it.