Infrastructure a Central Issue in the 2018 Election

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The top issues in the 2018 election look a little different from previous elections. Conversations and plans around infrastructure have crept up in campaign debates all over the country, when this topic normally would not hit the desk of the newly elected official, or incumbent, until after Election Day. The Brookings Institution released a report on October 19, 2018, comparing Democratic, Republican, and Independent gubernatorial candidates, their infrastructure plans, detail of plans, candidate support, and press coverage.

More states are starting to focus on infrastructure because there is an increasing understanding that improving these systems will improve the state’s economy. Since federal funding for infrastructure has remained largely stagnant, many states are taking matters into their own hands. For example, an impressive 27 states have raised their motor fuel taxes in the past five years, while the federal gas tax has remained the same since 1993. The Brookings Institution released a report on October 19, 2018, comparing Democratic, Republican, and Independent gubernatorial candidates, their infrastructure plans, detail of plans, candidate support, and press coverage.

Brookings researchers found that infrastructure has played a key role in most gubernatorial elections this 2018 election cycle, with Democrats leading the field in terms of advancing specific proposals and going beyond the typical transportation issues. There are 73 major candidates running for governor this year, and 64 of them mention infrastructure policy, possibly because they see how much is on their state’s plate when it comes to overseeing America’s infrastructure. Out of those 64 candidates who did discuss infrastructure policy, 41 offer detailed language on their views, but 18 candidates released plans with action involved. Of those 18, there were only 10 who added dollar amounts to their proposals, totaling around $25 billion. Political parties also played a part in this analysis. Out of the 36 Democratic gubernatorial candidates, 26 used detailed language when discussing infrastructure; whereas 15 out of the 36 Republican candidates detailed infrastructure in detail.

Moreover, both parties’ candidates discuss transportation issues in one way or another in their campaign strategies. Some of those candidates are running in heavily populated areas, where transportation is a key issue. Specifically, transportation was mentioned in New York, where residents in New York City are struggling with an aging subway system and in California where Prop 6, an effort to repeal the gas tax, is on the ballot. ASCE urges California voters to mark “No” for Prop 6 on the ballot.

In this election, one thing is certain: infrastructure is a priority for many states regardless of political leanings. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure a D+ on the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, indicating that the nation’s infrastructure is in poor condition and clearly need action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners and the American people. Gubernatorial candidates this year understand this pressing need to turn ideas into action. 20 years ago, many people were unaware of the definition of infrastructure, but today it is a hot button item in candidate pitches, which may be due to the country’s poorly rated systems and crumbling infrastructure.

Election results matter and so do your votes. If you want to see roads and bridges improved, cleaner drinking water, and better subway systems, head to the polls on November 6 and join ASCE in supporting infrastructure investment!

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