In recent decades, many states have directed infrastructure investments towards new fringe development while neglecting existing cities and towns, leaving crumbling, insufficient roads, bridges, buildings, and water systems behind. “Fix-it-first” strategies – which prioritize repairing existing infrastructure before building new – aim to support the significant public investments we’ve already made in our towns and cities, and make future investments more fiscally and financially responsible by steering public spending towards projects that maintain and improve existing infrastructure in established areas before extending new infrastructure into developing areas.
Fix-it-first for transportation
While adding new roads or road capacity is often necessary, repair projects have been shown to provide greater benefits in the long run. Road and bridge repairs produce more jobs because more of the budget is typically devoted to salaries instead of equipment and land acquisition, a benefit of particular value in economically challenged towns and cities. And making existing roads and bridges safe and efficient increases everyone’s quality of life.
Fix-it-first for water/sewer infrastructure
In many older cities and towns, pipes, sewers, and drains fail with dismaying regularity and even newer improvements such as pumps and treatment plans have reached the end of their useful lives. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency projects that, unless neglect is addressed, close to half of the water system pipes in America will be in poor, very poor, or “life elapsed” status by 2020. Directing scarce state resources towards these failing systems first just makes sense – protecting the families that rely on these systems now, preventing bigger and costlier fixes later on, and ensuring we’re able to maintain what we build down the line.
Fix-it-first for buildings
Historic preservation is another fix-it-first approach with a myriad of financial, economic, and revitalization benefits. By rehabilitating existing buildings, we reclaim some of the historic architecture that made older towns and cities great places to live in the first place. Likewise, rehabilitating existing buildings creates more jobs than building new ones, and, with the construction, operation, and demolition of buildings accounting for 48% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, reusing infrastructure and materials helps reduce our impact on the environment, too.