Our parents and grandparents left us with a transportation system that was the envy of the world. They dreamed it, they planned it, and they built it – but we haven’t maintained it.
Too many of our roads, bridges, and railways have fallen into disrepair. The quality of U.S. infrastructure now ranks just 16th in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. In Ohio, nearly a quarter of our bridges are “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.” 45 percent of our state’s major urban highways are congested, costing drivers $3.6 billion a year in additional repairs and operating costs.
This problem is also an opportunity – we have a chance to put Ohioans to work across our state rebuilding bridges and roads, eliminating lead from older homes, upgrading our water and public transit systems, and building broadband networks across the state. Right now, more than 100,000 Ohioans work in highway construction alone.
During his campaign, President Trump promised a $1 trillion dollar investment in American infrastructure, built with American iron and steel and made by American workers. Last week, I joined my colleagues in offering a national blueprint to hold the President accountable for keeping that promise – and I stand ready to work with him to make it happen.
Earlier this month, I introduced legislation to ensure that “Buy America” rules apply to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects. President Trump, has said that must be a priority, and it’s also a cornerstone of this plan. Companies like ArcelorMittal, AK Steel, and Nucor are making steel in Ohio that can build and rebuild our bridges like Brent Spence in Cincinnati.
With this blueprint, we can finally make that bridge a reality.
We can’t focus only on high-profile projects like the Brent Spence, though. In rural Ohio there are thousands of miles of roads and hundreds of bridges that need to be rebuilt or repaved. In small towns across the state there are dangerous rail crossings that keep first responders from doing their job. From Youngstown to Lima to Portsmouth, dozens of Ohio communities are struggling to repair outdated sewer systems that contaminate our rivers, our lakes, and drinking water, and strain local ratepayers.
Rural communities have also too often been left out of the conversation when it comes to the infrastructure they need to attract businesses. Steubenville is still waiting on a new Ohio River crossing. Towns across our state still need broadband access. Too many families still struggle to find a home they can afford. Our cities are filled with older homes that put our children at risk for lead poisoning, and with vacant and abandoned properties that drive down home values.
It’s time to put Ohioans to work rehabilitating those homes and sewer systems and bridges. We need to create jobs building the roads, transit, and broadband systems that will support our 21st century economy.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with President Trump to put Ohioans to work creating an infrastructure that will be the envy of the world once again.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator from Ohio.