Billions needed to improve crumbling infrastructure across Mid-South, experts say

President Biden unveils infrastructure plan

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - President Joe Biden unveiled an ambitious plan on Wednesday to improve infrastructure across the country.

It comes with a steep price tag of over $2 trillion.

It includes around $600 billion to fix bridges, roads, public transit and airports, and $300 billion to improve water infrastructure, expand broadband and upgrade electric grids.

“It’s big, yes. It’s bold, yes, and we can get it done,” said Biden. “It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the Interstate Highway System and the Space Race decades ago.

Throughout the Mid-South, there are roads, bridges and other infrastructure in need of repair or replacement and experts say it’s costing people more than they think.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) says Tennessee needs at least $58 billion for infrastructure improvements through 2024.

The commission says that amount has been increasing because of population growth and greater economic activity.

“The needs certainly are increasing and since there are more people, the higher the population growth, the more people and the more infrastructure needs there are to support that population,” said Rabia Chaudhry, a senior research associate at TACIR.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says poor infrastructure is costly in ways many people have not considered.

For instance, they say drivers in the Mid-South spend hundreds of dollars a year on car repairs just from driving on bad roads.

ASCE says Tennessee drivers pay on average an extra $200 a year, Arkansas drivers pay an extra $671, and Mississippi drivers pay over $820 a year on car repairs.

In its annual infrastructure report card, the ASCE also outlined infrastructure problems each Mid-South state faces.

“Drinking water needs in Tennessee are an estimated $8.7 billion. 276 dams are considered to be high-hazard potential. The state’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $768 million. This deteriorating infrastructure impedes Tennessee’s ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace,” the ASCE wrote.

ASCE says 4.4 percent of bridges in Tennessee are structurally deficient. It says 4.9 percent of bridges in Arkansas are rated structurally deficient.

ASCE gave Mississippi a D+ on its 2020 infrastructure report card.

Biden is hoping his plan will bring relief.

He says he will unveil the second part of his plan in April.

He wants to increase corporate taxes to pay for his plan, but many Republicans say they do not support that.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called the president’s plan “dangerously misguided.”

“We need a big and bold program to modernize our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and we applaud the Biden administration for making infrastructure a top priority. However, we believe the proposal is dangerously misguided when it comes to how to pay for infrastructure,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Properly done, a major investment in infrastructure today is an investment in the future, and like a new home, should be paid for overtime – say 30 years -- by the users who benefit from the investment. We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration which will slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally – the exact opposite of the goals of the infrastructure plan.”

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