Understanding the Importance of Infrastructure in Your Life

The water you use in your morning shower; the road you drive to work; the internet you access all day; the electricity to power your TV; and the bathwater you run for your child at night can be summed up in one word: infrastructure. It’s not incredibly sexy, but nothing essential is ever really considered super special. 

With the unveiling of President Biden’s ambitious $2 trillion “American Jobs Plan” and Infrastructure Week  May 10-14, it’s important to understand what infrastructure is and why everyone keeps talking about how important it is to our lives every day.

Defining infrastructure

If you look up the word in the dictionary, you’ll find that infrastructure is “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” Other resources will detail that it “supports households and firms” and serves a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function. Examples of infrastructure include transportation systems, communication networks, sewage, water, and electric systems.

Infrastructure may not be a word you use when you chat with friends, but it’s implied every time you complain about road construction, talk about the drought, or worry about your energy bill. Frankly, it’s something you likely don’t think about until the minute something is wrong or it becomes unavailable.

What is Infrastructure?

Why it’s important

We’ve all seen those stories on the news: bridges that fall, roadways that collapse, tap water that’s dirty and unsafe. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released its 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The report is published once every four years and since earning a D+ in 2017, the state of infrastructure in the United States now rates a C- overall grade.

Even though there is a slight improvement, the overall grade still means that the country’s infrastructure is “in mediocre condition, has deficiencies and needs attention.” Upon learning this, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that the report card results “tell us something we already know – that we have a long way to go.”

California also receives a grade of C-. This indicates The Golden State needs “significant investments to reverse the decades of underinvestment and help the built systems withstand climate change.” 

The average Californian uses 85 gallons of water per day and commutes at least 

29.3 minutes using local roads and highways. In Los Angeles County alone in 2019, residents used a collective 53.569 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per day. Infrastructure isn’t just something that is overarching and vague, it affects us all very individually and personally on a daily basis.

We all want to have clean drinking water when we turn on the tap. When we get behind the wheel, we want roads without potholes and bridges that withstand the weight they endure every day. We also want the electricity to work every time we flip the switch. All those things can only happen if we maintain, repair, update and replace infrastructure. That is why it is so important to make smart investments now.

The future of infrastructure

For years, even while recognizing updates and repairs were needed, the can was kicked down the road. That is why the passage of the historic Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), also known as the “gas tax” was so important. While opponents fought against it, for the first time since 1981, California was able to raise fuel taxes that allowed for significant funding specifically for transportation projects: $54 billion over the next 10 years.

Here in SoCal, numerous construction projects have begun that directly impact communities and the future of our region thanks to funds from SB 1. However, roads, highways, bridges, and mass transportation are only part of the large infrastructure puzzle.

To avoid crisis situations, we have to invest in smart infrastructure now to help our communities today and for generations to come. We can’t simply wish dams, water sources, the electrical grid, airports, and ports to be better, we’ve got to “Build Back Better.” 

Join the Rebuild SoCal Partnership in recognizing how important infrastructure is as we celebrate Infrastructure Week and beyond. Learn more and keep up-to-date on important infrastructure issues by listening to our podcast and signing up for the Rebuild SoCal Partnership newsletter.