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Congressman Tom O´Halleran

Representing the 1st District of Arizona

It's time to get serious about national infrastructure

March 13, 2018
Contributed Columns

Every day, Arizona families drive on some of the most dangerous roads in the country. Across the 1st Congressional District alone, more than 51 critical road and bridge projects await completion.

The lack of national attention to our national infrastructure has cost our communities billions of dollars in economic activity and put the lives of our children and families in danger. This is a public safety and an economic development issue, and it is long past time for Congress to take action.

Arizona road projects awaiting completion touch every corner of our state. Once completed, these infrastructure repairs would make it safer and easier for Arizonans to drive in the rural parts of the state. Other projects we must prioritize include flood control and mitigation projects that will protect communities in Coconino, Navajo, and Pinal Counties from damage and water supply and management projects in rural parts of the state that have never had these systems in place.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the cost of bringing our transportation up to acceptable standards will be nearly $50 billion over the next two decades. Unfortunately, this is an issue that is not unique to our state. Across the country, millions of Americans face the same challenges. This is a major issue that must be addressed swiftly and with the input of local, state, and federal government leaders, businesses, and the American public.

In addition to rebuilding our roads and bridges, we must also prioritize an investment in 21st century infrastructure. There is a growing broadband access divide between rural and urban communities that is having a serious impact on education and economic development opportunities. Earlier this year, I introduced the Rural Broadband Expansion Act which would invest $100 million in broadband internet deployment in rural areas. For too long, these resources have been diverted to urban, metropolitan areas while our rural areas have fallen behind.

While there has been a great deal of national conversation about the need for investments in our infrastructure system, the most recent proposal put forward by the Administration will do little for rural America. I am concerned that this plan forces our already cash-strapped communities to foot the bill of costly infrastructure repairs. The majority of funds in this proposal are not new money, but rather, they are taken from many programs that are currently used to benefit the families living in rural and tribal communities.

Additionally, despite the growing infrastructure crisis our rural communities are facing, under the Administration’s plan, rural America will be forced to compete with urban areas for a limited amount of funding. It will become increasingly difficult for rural communities to receive the infrastructure funding they desperately need.

Despite my concerns with this plan, I am hopeful that we can use it to jumpstart a serious discussion in Congress about the needs of our country. We must get serious about addressing the dereliction of our national infrastructure. Congress must step up and develop a real partnership with state and local governments if we want to see meaningful progress. We owe it to the American people to ensure every community has access to modern, high-speed technology and our roads and bridges are safe to drive on and can efficiently get products to market.

I want to hear from you on this issue, and any other issues your community is facing. Do not hesitate to reach out and share your thoughts and concerns with me by calling or writing my office.