The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a report card that highlighted the poor state of our country’s infrastructure.  In short, as a nation, we received a D+ rating and are in somewhat dire straits. Though there are some who question whether the issue truly exists, it is apparent that there are areas of concern. President Trump has the background to make a difference in our country’s infrastructure and have a lasting impression on our country for decades to come.  However, we have yet to see these nation-led changes.

Without a stable infrastructure, we will topple. Clean water, electricity, waste disposal, communication, and roads are things we would all miss if any one of them fails.  Counter-terrorism reports mark infrastructure as targets.  Sadly, we are targeting them ourselves if we let them fail on their own.  Ask yourself what we can’t do without.  This list encompasses what most would put in their top 5.

Pittsburgh has added pressure to make earlier changes and not wait for Washington D.C. to fund it. One reason Pittsburgh is in a worse state is because of its multitude of bridges on top of the normal wear and tear of a city’s infrastructure. The age of many bridges is well past its due date without proper maintenance and updating. It is time to take action.

I am happy that our local government leaders seem to know this is an issue and is giving it attention.  I believe they are doing what they can within their funding restrictions. However, we need more. We need to support our leaders’ efforts by diverting more energy towards ensuring our basic needs are met.   With recent bridge fires, electrical safety concerns, more frequent water boil orders issued for the city, we can’t afford to wait.  A significant cost now will save us an overwhelming cost later.

What can we do?

The population of Pittsburgh is a little over 300,000.  People are willing to pay just a little bit more to make sure the infrastructure is maintained and improved. However, asking for money needs a positive spin and to be put into perspective. This can’t just be a nebulous tax increase to help pay for it. If this responsibility is not privatized as some are calling for, what can the city and surrounding counties do to help pay for these necessary items?

Why not a usage fee? Like a toll road, you would pay to use the bridge. How much should be charged? Does 2 pennies sound reasonable? Would this be worth putting into place?

Let’s run the numbers:

Liberty bridge, built in 1928, was renovated for 32 million dollars in 1982 (Over 50 years later). Let’s assume that a bridge can last 50 years before needing a renovation.  Since Liberty Bridge carries over 55,000 cars daily, that is over 20 million cars a year.  

With EZ-PASS technology that uses transponders or license plate recognition, a car can be charged 2 cents maximum per day to use the bridge.  Pay once and use the bridge as many times as you need that day. That would mean that a car would pay only $7.30 a year at most.  For the Bridge fund, that would be over $400,000 a year or 20 million dollars after 50 years. That would put quite the dent into renovations and upkeep.

Notwithstanding the depreciation of the dollar, cities can invest this money in CDs and bonds to help defray the loss. The initial cost to  outfit the bridges with ez-pass technology will pay for itself after a short while. This might be a feasible option for the city of Pittsburgh. What do you think?