Fixing Potholes: The Underfunded Struggle to Fix Our Nation’s Infrastructure

Money does not solve all of our problems and there’s no worse culprit of mismanaged spending than the government. On the other hand, if there is was glaring fact about our nation’s infrastructure, it’s that it needs more money to survive.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 20% of the nation’s roads are in poor or unsafe condition and an estimated 55,000 bridges remain in dire need of repair. The Highway Trust Fund, the government’s main instrument for direct infrastructure stimulus, struggles to stay afloat and constantly needs to request more funding from congress every few years

Trump’s much touted infrastructure bill, worth $1 trillion, has yet to be unveiled, nor has any way to actually pay for the bill. The fabled Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not even address the Highway Trust Fund or any way to fix its funding from fuel taxes.

If there’s one primary argument for taxation and government spending it’s to fix the nation’s infrastructure. The demand certainly exists and yet the government still seems slow to heed the call-to-action. Another culprit in the matter is also state and local governments, which pick up most of the grunt work, but still don’t provide enough funding for major infrastructure issues. Let’s explore the current state of infrastructure funding and the benefits of increased infrastructure funding.

Infrastructure Funding

Infrastructure repair is primarily funded by state and local governments with assistance from the federal government. State and local governments pay for about 75% of infrastructure projects with approximately $100 billion in funding from federal grants. Less than half of that funding is determined by the amount of travel these roads receive. While this funding is tied to formula grants, it doesn’t always go to areas in the most need.

One way the government could fix this is to tie funding to performance metrics or even asking customers to foot more of the bill with tolls and taxes to pay for more widely used highways and roads.

A more conservative approach calls for the abolition of the federal fuel taxes and the Highway Trust Fund to simply shift the tax burden to the states. Let them come up with their own policy and let its constituents decide how to allocate the money within their own state.

Of course, you can always allocate money from somewhere else to actually fund its repair.

Regardless, the state of our nation’s infrastructure is obviously in dire need of repair. Let’s explore some of the benefits to funding and fixing the potholes.

Benefits of Increased Infrastructure Investment

  • Increased jobs: 1 in 10 jobs in the US economy are actually infrastructure jobs. Unfortunately, many infrastructure and construction jobs are only short term. With more infrastructure projects, this creates more long-term growth in the construction industry and for contractors. For private businesses or public entities, such as schools and municipal buildings, this helps them save money on out-of-pocket repairs allowing them to hire more people.
  • Better quality of life for states and localities: By improving the infrastructure, you are essentially improving the means for travel and commerce. Companies specializing in shipping save money on repairs, goods are transferred quicker, and you encourage more capital investments in your local area.

With low interest rates, governments can help consumers by issuing debt to help pay for projects. Investing in infrastructure also raises wages and the standard of living for local areas that receive money. It;s one fix for areas that have high rates of unemployment.


Winter is approaching and potholes are bound to push your car out of alignment. Whether you’re taking a vacation or a road trip across the country, be sure to look out your window to see areas where infrastructure is largely ignored. The signs are easy to spot and it doesn’t take an engineer to spot them.

Infrastructure is one of the most important policy positions to take as a politician. Both sides agree on it. Yet so little is done to fix our nation’s failing infrastructure or the pork barrel spending that often stifles these goals. Let’s hope that our crumbling infrastructure is not an indication of an even greater ineptitude shackling this country.

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