Two years ago, no matter who assumed the Oval Office, infrastructure would finally be a top priority. Both candidates vowed to modernize our nation’s roads, bridges, drinking-water systems and energy grids. But America’s infrastructure is still waiting for desperately-needed improvements.

A poor engineering score

The American Society of Civil Engineers' most recent Infrastructure report card is evidence of this. Since 1998 the society has been releasing a Report Card which has never emerged from a D. Most recently America’s infrastructure received a ‘D+’ in 2017.

Fixing a trillion-dollar problem

Solving America’s infrastructure problem is a critical need. As evident from the 10-year, $2 trillion infrastructure deficit and the economic impact of the underinvestment, increased funding is what propels communities and ensures public safety. On average, $3,400 a year per household is lost in disposable income because of inadequate infrastructure. The economic cost does not cover the health impact of a deteriorating infrastructure. It is possible to close the deficit by increasing investment from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of GDP.

Effective planning should include tools that ensure wisely-used limited funding.

The role of the public and private sectors

Bold leadership, thoughtful planning and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure is important to investors. Our government, along with input from business, labor and nonprofit organizations, must prioritize projects that benefit the economy, public safety and quality of life. Effective planning should include tools that ensure wisely-used limited funding. The private sector can also play a role in infrastructure improvement. Projects should become attractive to the private sector for potential public-private partnerships and capitalize on financial sources.

Another challenge lies in the permitting process, often from conflicting directives from different agencies. The United States needs a process that protects the environment, accelerates projects, and secures costs savings while clarifying regulatory requirements. The Trump Administration’s efforts show a promise in ensuring this streamlined process.

The crossroads of tech and investment

New approaches, materials, and technologies can solve many issues. Our infrastructure can be built more resiliently, quickly and sustainably for hazardous events. It can fix the “triple bottom line” with clear economic, social and environmental benefit.

Technology is changing rapidly, transforming how infrastructure is built and maintained as well. The positioning of long-term utility increases when emerging technologies and shifting socioeconomic trends are considered when building infrastructure.

Our nation’s infrastructure has significant challenges, but are solvable if the nation acts through increased investment, bold leadership, comprehensive planning and thoughtful preparation for the future.