RELEASE: Repairing Bridges Can Lift Families Out of Poverty
Washington D.C. – Today, the Center for American Progress released a list of the top 10 states with the most deficient bridges and how we could address unemployment and poverty with investments to repair them.
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that one in six Americans lived in poverty in 2010, 3 million more than in 2009. A more up to date snapshot of just how bad things are can be found in the August employment numbers—zero jobs added. That eye-popping statistic suggests that poverty numbers for 2011 might surpass the depressing 2010 findings on poverty released last week.
To address the desperate need for jobs, help lift people from poverty, and keep our roads, bridges, and transit systems safe, President Barack Obama introduced the American Jobs Act, which would invest $50 billion in critical infrastructure improvements. This proposal mirrors the successful strategy of infrastructure investments made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which invested nearly $50 billion in infrastructure that put as many as three-quarters of a million Americans to work.
The president’s jobs legislation again channels the investment power of the government to stimulate private-sector business growth. Rebuilding America’s crumbling roads and bridges is one of the most effective ways to put Americans back to work. There are approximately 150,000 bridges in America that are either “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete,” according to the Federal Highway Administration. At the current rate of investment, it will take decades to bring these bridges into a state of good repair.
“Instead of waiting for more bridges to fall down, we can make the kind of investments that helped make America great and will help put Americans back to work,” said Donna Cooper, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “Obviously, not everyone boasts the skills to rebuild a bridge. But there is no question that a national bridge-repair campaign, the start of which is envisioned in the American Jobs Act, can offer tens of thousands of Americans a bridge to greater prosperity.”
In these 10 states alone, there are nearly 68,000 bridges desperately needing repair. That works out to 37 unemployed workers per bridge. If work began on just a quarter of these bridges with funds from the American Jobs Act, thousands of unemployed construction and skilled trades workers could return to work.
Doing so would go a long way toward reducing the poverty rate in each of these states. Before the Great Recession hit, 9.5 percent of all American families were living in poverty. But since the beginning of the recession in 2008 through the end of 2010, the economy lost more than 7 million jobs, while poverty rose to 11.3 percent.
Simply employing all the workers who lost their jobs due to the recession will not eradicate poverty. But it would go a long way toward reducing the tragically alarming incidence of one in six Americans who are currently struggling to stay afloat with incomes below the federal poverty level.