America in transition: Aging infrastructure at a breaking point

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports on the state of the nation’s infrastructure amid the pandemic, as President-elect Joe Biden vows to focus attention and new funds on improvements.
6:52 | 12/30/20

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Transcript for America in transition: Aging infrastructure at a breaking point
A fewer travelers and commuters during the pandemic have meant less gridlock on highways and shorter security lines at airports this holiday. But experts say behind the scenes key parts of the nation's infrastructure system are at a breaking point. So tonight in our series America and transition we look at the cost of years of nick lacked. Of our roads and bridges airports and electrical grid and what president elect Biden is promising to do in his first 100 days here's Devin Dwyer. On the campaign trail it's been a tantalizing promise for years. Let's build wireless networks in the world community self help nobody. Can tie up in the world markets. Let's put construction. Workers back to work. They want trillion dollar infrastructure plan. To build new roads and bridges at airports and tunnels and highways and rallies. All across our great. Nice upgrades to infrastructure to improve our commutes to speed shipments of products and add US construction jobs by the millions. But inaction in Washington has made it all a running joke. This is the dramatic conclusion. Up Donald Trump's. Infrastructure we. It's all been talking about this week right infrastructure. You know fakes are all bridges then jumping off on. The to do list of repairs is staggering 177. Billion dollars needed for the electrical grid 42 billion for aging airports. At one point one trillion for crumbling roads is structurally deficient bridges. Its crisis with fewer travelers at airports and I'm told Rhodes fewer are paying the taxes and user fees that fund repairs. You've got municipal and state budgets that are starting to buckle under these unprecedented demands meaning less support is available for our parks and schools and other publicly owned infrastructure. Precisely at a time when we need to be investing it. Subways commuter rail and bus lines under strain before Kobe are now bracing for deep cots. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with it tonight as you as you may know I ran beat about airport right after nine elevenths and I dealt with a lot of issues there. But this is on leave. In the nation's capital rail ridership is down 90%. Bus passengers down 60%. Paul we'd have felled oversees the country's second busiest transit system behind New York City. But do you look at New York Chicago Philadelphia San Francisco Boston they're all in the same place they're gonna that same point we are which as you were facing huge financial challenges. And until this thing's really under control people are coming back these are system. New York's MTA faces an eight billion dollar deficit through 20/20 four in Chicago it's 500 million while in Boston 600 million. Officials have warned of more layoffs eliminating service closing stations. Cutting the frequency of trains and buses some much needed system upgrades are put on hold or canceled we have a tremendous backlog when it comes to transit. That backlog could threaten the Covert recovery is businesses rely on public transit to bring back workers shoppers and tourists. How one you think this is gonna last. It's definitely months we were definitely moments let's see how the vaccine all plays out both in terms of its. Acceptance and an on again and drive building. On the roads there may be less rush hour gridlock but with fewer filling up at the pump in pain gas tax is the highway trust fund is taking a hit. More than 56000. American bridges roughly one in ten are an urgent need of major repairs or replacement. We have trusts are a lot I believe and I am concerned. And very concerned about it could be too late. They're there may be a bridge collapse on her eyes and Kimberly brown is a survivor. America's crumbling infrastructure. Thirteen years ago she was driving to a soccer game in Minneapolis interstate 35 W over the Mississippi River suddenly collapse. This is a bridge that. That seems so strong it is so powerful it and it's been able to it is absolutely devour itself a few well. I and its standing on the bridge after her falling to bridge and thinking I was. Surely gonna die and we had client Alex. He has not possibly be real. So I just raised my arm and just took a picture. And I know the during the emotional and psychological wounds my injuries Rollins is little eye injuries. Murder. Eerie masks or or she do it damages that are happening. Under this bridge and the damages I discovered. We're happening across. Different infrastructure. And that is happening all across our country. Brown set out to investigate on her own writing a book about her findings in calling on leaders in both parties to see the human cost of infrastructure neglect. Once we embrace. The reality of why it surely trial. And eighty organized and are buying together. Regardless of party. Just don't follow and asked us what party we are we call phone. 149 people were hurt it did not matter whether voter registration cards I'm. Congress and its massive year end stimulus bill approved fourteen billion dollars in relief for public transit. Which major cities say will prevent deeper service cuts and layoffs for now. It's about. Another important down payment of what's gonna have to be done. He gave me the ended January and February president elect Joseph Biden's is a long elusive bipartisan. Infrastructure deal is a top priority tapping former South Bend mayor people who judge is transportation secretary to help lead the charge. Americans expect us to see to that the idea of an infrastructure week. Is associated with the results and never again immediate punch line. High expectations. Met with cautious opt. To this and one of the issues we get we get bogged down by its time is how do you fund. And the question we have to ask ourselves is how do you not funded. And what does it cost when you don't fund do you think that this transition in this new administration will be. Different than the last two infrastructure in these jobs that's what it really means I think that the president elect that showed that you know that 880s he's an infrastructure guy he wants to do that and to think given what we've been through the coded. We need to start that a coming up in the quickest way to do that we start investing in infrastructure. A fresh call to upgrade America. And super charger economic recovery in the process. For ABC news live on Devin Dwyer in Washington. And our thanks to Doug then.

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