When you listen to experts talk about the importance of infrastructure spending, they often emphasize jobs and economic growth. That’s understandable. But what does not get as much attention is the impact that upgraded and modern infrastructure can have in keeping American citizens safe.
At Nucor Corporation, safety is the number one cultural value of our company. We know that our success starts with each of our team members going home safe from work every day. If we cannot operate safely, we can’t be profitable or provide the best service to our customers.
We know that behind every safety statistic is a person -— a person with loved ones who depend on them and want them to come home safely. Our goal at Nucor is to eliminate injuries to our teammates. We want to be the World’s Safest Steel Company. Our country should also be working to reduce injuries by having the best infrastructure in the world.
The condition of our infrastructure in the U.S. creates a real safety risk for all of us. We are still driving on roads and bridges designed and built in the 1950s and 60s. Of the more than 600,000 bridges in the United States, nearly 50,000 are structurally deficient and need to be replaced. Americans make close to 180 million daily crossings over these bridges.
Poor infrastructure can have life or death consequences. Over a decade ago, commuters going home in Minneapolis on a late summer afternoon were killed or seriously injured when the 35W bridge collapsed. Earlier this year, millions of residents across Texas faced tremendous risks from freezing temperatures and a lack of water when the energy grid failed in the face of extreme weather. People died or became seriously ill from carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried to stay warm. It is hard to believe that we did not learn our lesson after the shocking bridge collapse in Minneapolis. We can’t make that same mistake again in the wake of the devastation suffered across Texas this past winter.
The poor state of our nation’s infrastructure recently earned a grade of C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers. This was a slight improvement after years of receiving grades of D, but hardly a grade worth celebrating, particularly when you think about safety. Anything less than an ‘A’ average should be unacceptable to every elected official in America when it concerns the well-being of their constituents.
The good news is that President Biden has proposed a bold infrastructure funding plan. His plan calls for more than $600 billion to upgrade our bridges, highways, roads, waterways and transit systems. Part of that money is targeted to improve road safety. The plan also contains $100 billion targeted to our energy infrastructure. This funding can help us repair or replace those structurally deficient bridges so that we do not have another catastrophe when people are simply driving home from work, as well as make our electric grid more resilient in the face of extreme weather.
If we do not take this opportunity to finally fix our infrastructure, we are not only forfeiting economic growth and job creation, but we are also compromising the safety, health and well-being of our citizens. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and make a significant investment in our infrastructure that will help keep Americans safe.
Nathan Fraser is the Vice President and General Manager at Nucor Steel Indiana.