I know you have been following the saga of infrastructure legislation in Washington this year. It is exciting to see years of promises to fix our nation’s infrastructure take shape in both halls of Congress. But it can be confusing to follow its progress—and even more confusing when our politicians change the concept of infrastructure itself for political gains.
We know what our community’s core infrastructure is designed to do: it delivers clean water to homes and hospitals, removes sanitary wastewater from businesses and buildings, or provides communications and electricity to the 120+ million structures in this nation. We know this because our industry builds a fair portion of it.
This summer, as you know from following NUCA’s newsletters or social media, Congress and the White House have been negotiating or legislating on “infrastructure” legislation. The House and Senate have been working on several pieces of legislation that in some way will help this industry and other construction trades build, repair, or maintain our nation’s infrastructure.
However, the word “infrastructure” means one thing to those of us who build these critical systems, but something else to politicians paying for it with our taxes.
Words must have a common meaning, or else they lose their power to explain an issue to a universal audience.
Infrastructure is concrete, rebar, dirt, steel, plastic pipe and conduit, fiber-optic cable, electric cables, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems, storm drains, and more. It’s tangible, well-built, and real. We know that to be a fact because it’s our lives.
However, others in Washington want to add to these tangible facts a hazy idea of “social infrastructure.” NUCA does not have a position on what “social infrastructure” is or howit should be built. We’re ditchdiggers first and foremost.
But how ever “social infrastructure” is defined, those social services are going to first require core infrastructure projects built with concrete, rebar, dirt, steel, iron, plastic, brick, and the rest of the materials and systems required to support functional structures like hospitals, daycare centers, senior living apartments, and more. Core infrastructure projects must come first, or the rest will not follow regardless of how much a politician wants to spend.
It is short-sighted and unnecessary to couple core infrastructure and “social infrastructure” together, as some want to do in Washington. Let’s fix the broken sewer and water lines first, build the new wastewater plants, install faster broadband cables, and spend national resources on more of the $2.5 trillion in minimum infrastructure repairs so we can sooner discuss and enjoy the benefits our communities can derive from additional “social infrastructure.”
Lauren Atwell, NUCA Chairman of the Board / Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors, Inc.