News Feature | February 17, 2015

Water Pipes Would Get Fixed With $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

At a time of intense budget pressure at the state and federal level, one senator is calling for a massive outlay of infrastructure dollars.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, introduced a five-year, $1 trillion infrastructure bill last month. The top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders called on lawmakers to stop neglecting infrastructure issues.

“For too many years, we’ve underfunded our nation’s physical infrastructure. We have to change that and that’s what the Rebuild America Act is all about. We must modernize our infrastructure and create millions of new jobs that will put people back to work and help the economy," he said in a statement.

Water experts say infrastructure updates are sorely-needed in cities and towns across the country, and these would be supported by the bill. But it's not clear where the money would come from to fund Sanders' proposal.

"Sanders, who did not specify a source of funding for his bill, said targeted investments would be made in roads, bridges, transit, rail lines, water systems, ports and inland waterways, national parks, municipal broadband systems and the electric grid," the Washington Post reported.

It appears certain the bill will not pass, given GOP control of both chambers of Congress.

But even if this measure did pass, it might not be enough to entirely fix the nation's crumbling infrastructure. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation a D+ for water infrastructure in a 2013 report card, estimating that $3.6 trillion must be invested by 2020. ASCE supports the legislation, along with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

"Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion," the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reported, citing the American Water Works Association (AWWA).

Policymakers have debated raising taxes as a potential way to fund infrastructure projects. Sanders' bill "comes as lawmakers have been discussing the possibility of raising the federal gas tax to help pay for a new round of transportation spending with prices at the pump having reached their lowest levels in years," The Hill reported.

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