If you hop on a train from Baltimore to D.C., you might travel over the Thomas Viaduct, a 180-year-old stone bridge. Pour a glass of water in Chicago or Philadelphia and it might reach you through century-old pipes. Fly into Minneapolis or Albany and you will land at airports initially built in the 1920s, when air travel was new.
The infrastructure America builds in the next few years will define our future for decades, even generations to come. So, it is critical that we focus new investment on the types of infrastructure that will position America well for success in the 21st century.
The United States has different needs today than we did in, say, the 1930s, when the New Deal gave us iconic infrastructure such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Hoover Dam. Back then, much of America lacked good roads and access to electricity. The New Deal didn't just put food on the table for the unemployed; it also helped position the nation for 20th century success.
Today, however, rural communities need access to broadband Internet the way they once needed electricity. Cities may benefit more from saving wetlands, forests and other forms of "green infrastructure" than building big new dams. Building the infrastructure to tap the pollution-free energy in wind and sunlight may deliver greater dividends than returning to coal or oil. And we may need modern transit to get across our congested cities more urgently than we need new ways to from coast-to-coast.