America's public infrastructure -- our roads, bridges, airports, seaports, waterways, and even our sidewalks -- is a mess. You can see it for yourself every day. But it's not just a nuisance -- it's bad for our economy.
Engineering experts estimate we need to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to make our infrastructure competitive -- not the best in the world, just acceptable.
Just how bad is it? U.S. infrastructure has fallen from first place in the World Economic Forum's 2005 economic competitiveness ranking to 14th today. In almost every component of our physical infrastructure, we are stuck or losing ground every year.
China now boasts six of the world's top 10 ports, and none of the top 10 are located in the United States. We now rank 19th in the world in port infrastructure, behind the likes of Iceland, Denmark and Estonia.
In air transport, we're suffering from the world's worst air traffic congestion. Internationally, we now rank 32nd behind countries like Panama and Malaysia.
While there are more than 15,000 miles of true high-speed rail in operation around the world, almost none are in the U.S., where we rank 18th in overall rail system quality, behind Finland and Malaysia. Congestion in Chicago, our nation's largest rail center, is so bad that it takes a freight train longer to get through the city limits than it does to reach Los Angeles.
Our roads are not much better. A third of all U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Since 1980, the number of miles traveled annually has essentially doubled, but the miles of new highway lanes have grown by only 4 percent. In 2010 alone, Americans wasted 4.8 billion hours sitting in traffic, wasting 1.9 billion gallons of fuel at a cost of $101 billion.