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English Words in the News: Infrastructure Posted by on Jul 29, 2021 in Culture, News

Image by Kevan Craft from Pixabay

Money, lots of money, has been approved by lawmakers in the United States to improve the country’s infrastructure. The plan calls for $1 trillion to be spent on many neglected necessities across the country. 1https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/07/28/upshot/infrastructure-breakdown.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article Yes, that’s trillion, with a T. That’s a 1 followed by twelve zeroes. In Europe, they would call that amount, “One thousand billion.” A trillion single dollar bills stacked on top of each other would almost reach from the Earth to the Sun. As I said, a lot of money.

What is Infrastructure?

Dictionaries define Infrastructure as, “The system of public works of a country, state, or region and the resources (such as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for them to operate.” This broad definition helps to explain why federal spending on infrastructure has been so difficult to achieve. It almost sounds as though the federal government, in order to fix infrastructure, must spend money on everything. Well, that’s almost true.

Infra means below, so the infrastructure is the foundation holding up the structure. It’s things like water pipes and sewers and subways – the things we don’t think about and take for granted that they will always work and be there for us.

States, cities, and towns in the US budget money to fix or maintain their infrastructure. This is money for things like snow removal in the winter, or to cut down trees that get too close to powerlines. Local infrastructure might be schools, a library, or traffic lights. But, bigger projects, like bridges, railways, and dams, cost far more money than putting a new roof on City Hall. That’s where federal funding comes in. And, because it has been years since the federal government has focused money and effort to fix these needs, the cost keeps going up along with the need. It’s time.

Here are the elements of the US infrastructure that will be improved with this money.

  1. Roads and Bridges – The highway system in the US needs to be repaired. While the agreement sets aside $110 billion for this, most experts believe that much more needs to be spent. But, it’s a beginning.
  2. Rail and Freight Lines – We have something called Amtrak, The National Railroad Passenger Corporation. It’s our national rail passenger system. There is a long list of maintenance needs for this system, and it’s long overdue for expansion.
  3. Clean Water – Congress banned lead pipes for drinking water three decades ago. Over ten million remains and are contaminating our water.
  4. Public Transportation – In addition to Amtrak, other trains, subways, and bus lines need to be maintained and improved. Many have not had advancements and improvements in over half a century.
  5. Electric Vehicles – Electric vehicle charging stations will be built across the country to help encourage the manufacture and sale of modern vehicles in the age of climate change.
  6. Broadband – Bringing high-speed internet to areas of the country without it became a necessity during COVID.
  7. Wells and Mines – Many of these leak, making groundwater toxic. They need to be either repaired or shut down.
  8. Airports – Some of the country’s busiest airports need major improvements. Hundreds, maybe thousands of smaller ones, also.
  9. Ports and Waterways – US shipping and international trade through U.S. ports, directly and indirectly, supports 25‐30% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 13 million jobs.
  10. Water Storage – Reservoirs and dams provide water supplies, power, recreation, and wildlife habitats to millions of people across the country.

These are specific parts of the US national infrastructure that will be affected by this new spending agreed upon by Congress and the White House. One trillion dollars may not be enough, but it’s much better than nothing. How will it affect you?


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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.