Lessons from Springfield

March 1, 2024
The IIJA is not enough and action is needed

“The Simpsons” has been on television since 1989, and I believe the best episode is from its fourth season. It is titled, “Marge vs. the Monorail.”

Written by Conan O’Brien, the episode aired on Jan. 14, 1993, and this is its plot:

Mr. Burns, who owns the power plant, is caught dumping nuclear waste in Springfield park by the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Burns is fined $3 million, and the city of Springfield is given that money to spend as it sees fit.

At a public meeting, Marge Simpson urges the townspeople to use the money to repair Main Street, which has a pothole that swallows cars.

But then con artist Lyle Lanley (voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman), sings a song that convinces the citizens to build a monorail that doesn’t work.

The moral of the story? Repair your roads when you have the chance!

America has that chance right now, and we need to push our leaders to act.

But Gavin, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) became a law. We had that chance and we already took it.

That’s true. The IIJA is not perfect, but it passed with bipartisan support, and it has been a success.

The $1 trillion law included $550 billion in new federal spending over five years—including $110 billion in roads, bridges, and major projects.

But President Biden signed the IIJA into law on Nov. 15, 2021 — more than two years ago.

The IIJA is a massive investment, but it’s not enough to fix the bridges that need rescued, let along everything else, and it will be over before we know it.

America’s leaders ignored our crumbing infrastructure for decades. The IIJA won’t undo that kind of neglect.

According to the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure in 2021, which is released by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), our infrastructure received an overall grade of C-.

In a few years, when the IIJA’s funding pipeline has gone dry, will this grade be an A+? How about an A-?

Anything less is unacceptable.

We can’t wait for the IIJA to end, and then start pushing our political leaders for a new bill.

It became obvious to millions of Americans that we needed infrastructure investment on Aug. 1, 2007, when the Mississippi River Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis.

It took 14 years after that tragedy to get the IIJA.

Politicians in each political party act slowly and often waste money on shiny, monorail-esque ventures that don’t work.

That’s why it’s imperative that industry leaders act now to push politicians in Washington, D.C. to amend the IIJA to last longer or to introduce a new infrastructure bill (perhaps one that’s less confusing and has less red tape).

Perhaps someone can hire Conan O’Brien to write a song that convinces everyone to continue building and repairing roads and bridges. I’ll even sing it. RB

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