The current state of transportation infrastructure in the United States is, quite frankly, horrible.
In 1991, when surface transportation policy was last significantly overhauled in the United States, Americans who wanted to travel to an unfamiliar location used paper maps, usually purchased from a bookstore or gas station. If on a toll road, they stopped at the tollbooths and rolled down the window. They listened to an AM/FM radio, a cassette tape, or maybe even a compact disc if their car was new. Internet, smartphones, and texting were essentially unheard of. The Global Positioning System was incomplete, and its use was limited to the military.
Obviously, we have come a long way in the past 26 years, with every smartphone or computer owner having access to GPS. There are radio transponders to pay toll road fees and even a few self-driving cars on the road. Our infrastructure needs to reflect these developments, but that is not the only issue.
Mark Rosekind of the Department of Transportation stated that “In 2014, 32,675 Americans died on our roadways and over 2.3 million people were injured. That’s a mind-boggling 90 deaths every day and more than 260 people injured every hour.”
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, about one in nine bridges nationally are considered “structurally deficient,” or safe for travel but in need of renovation or replacement.
In addition, the American Society for Civil Engineers has calculated that if we do not fix at least part of our infrastructure now, we will lose $3.9 trillion dollars to our GDP by 2025, and 2.5 million hardworking Americans will lose their jobs. The cost to families will be devastating on the higher ends of $3,400 per family per year, businesses have been estimated to lose $7 trillion dollars within a few years. This cannot happen.
A large portion of President Donald Trump’s campaign was a promise of better roads and overall improvements in infrastructure. The Department of Transportation has conducted research into what amount of money would be necessary to keep our roads in the condition they were in in 2010. Here are the numbers, according to the Federal Highway Administration:
“The average annual capital investment level needed to maintain the conditions and performance of highways and bridges at 2010 levels through the year 2030 is projected to range from $65.3 billion to $86.3 billion per year, depending on the future rate of growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Improving the conditions and performance of highways and bridges by implementing all cost-beneficial investments would cost an estimated $123.7 billion to $145.9 billion per year.”
Unfortunately, due to the large costs, this does not seem likely to happen anytime soon.
However, there are multiple options that could improve our infrastructure and American’s lives, while also giving us a nudge into the future. While these proposals certainly would not fix the entire problem, when compared to the report above, they are cost-effective ways to give us the boost we need. One of those solutions is hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Imagine if energy was regularly created from the most plentiful element in the universe. Hydrogen is the answer. Hydrogen can be produced from renewable resources like solar, wind, and natural gases, and then be transformed into pure energy to power practically anything. However, before we can begin to work towards this, we need to build the proper infrastructure for the hydrogen industry.
According to Danielle Moino of Business Insider:
“The problem with hydrogen-powered cars is there’s no infrastructure to support them. You can’t exactly go anywhere to fill up your fuel cell tank. The hydrogen filling stations necessary to recharge the car are mostly only available in California due to the California Fuel Cell Partnership.”
A good way to promote the construction of hydrogen infrastructure would be for the Federal Government to provide subsidies to private companies looking to get into this industry. Each station costs approximately $2.8 Million to build, and the estimated yearly cost of a 30% building subsidy in metropolitan areas is $3 Billion. While this sounds expensive, consider the cost of completely overhauling U.S. infrastructure.
Cars are not the only things that can be powered by hydrogen. As I stated above, you can power almost anything with the technology found in hydrogen FCVs (fuel cell vehicles). If we take a serious look at advancing this technology, there are almost infinite possibilities and applications.
Building hydrogen infrastructure is the key to a pollution-free, sustainable, and efficient future.