The State of U.S. Infrastructure 80 Years After the Public Works Administration

Monday, July 08, 2013

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (Joe Mazzola/Wikipedia Commons)

The Lincoln Tunnel and Triborough Bridge in New York City, the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state, and the Overseas Highway connecting Key West to mainland Florida are all products of the New Deal’s Public Works Administration, which went into effect 80 years ago today.

The Public Works Administrations was the driving force of America’s biggest construction effort to date. It electrified rural America, building canals, tunnels, bridges, highways, streets, sewage systems, hospitals, schools and universities.

In fact, every year it consumed roughly half of the concrete and a third of the steel of the entire nation as it strengthened our infrastructure and put Americans back to work.

Now 80 years later, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the United States a D+ grade on infrastructure, 1 in 9 bridges are structurally deficient, and according to a recent study, air transit ranks 33rd globally behind Panama and Malaysia.

Ed Rendell is the former governor of Pennsylvania and the founder and co-chair of Building America’s Future, which advocates for infrastructure spending. He believes that the United States has delayed investing in infrastructure long enough. He discusses why the nation should invest in infrastructure despite the other pressing issues facing the country.

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Ed Rendell

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Megan Quellhorst


T.J. Raphael

Comments [3]

thatgirl from new york

It's pretty rich that Ed Rendell's advocating for more infrastructure "investment" by government these days; he was singly responsible for ushering in wildcat methane gas drilling while Governor of PA, which saw the wholesale giveaway of public water, land, roads and ecological health to the oil and gas industry. Their actions will do nothing more than generate more methane gas to sell on the worldwide market, create more oil and gas billionaires, and force government to repair the roads, bridges and natural viability of rural PA--the lattermost the least attainable. Drill on, Ed!

Jul. 08 2013 03:27 PM
Alfred Jeffries from Providence, RI

Good work by Ed Rendell.

I hope someone can burn a fire under RIDOT's director to get the Park Ave. bridge in Cranston, RI repaired in a timely manner.

And by the way was it not the WPA and not the PWA??

Jul. 08 2013 12:18 PM
Perry from Northern California

This issue of spending more money on infrastructure leaves out one very important aspect of improving our infrastructure. That is how we develop infrastructure for healthier more live-able communities in the future. Spending large amounts of money for development of more freeways, more roads, more bridges, more pavement does not necessarily mean a better quality of life for future generations. More jobs can be created by developing solar energy projects instead of temporary projects that build roads. Communities have had a tendency to build out infrastructure as if there is no limit to growth. It is time for communities to plan for rural and agricultural development as well as developing a "brighter" way for people to live in healthy urban environments. Obviously I do not like the way we have developed our freeway infrastructure in the past and I want a brighter future.

Jul. 08 2013 09:58 AM

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