Our highways, bridges, airports, dams and other infrastructure need an estimated $4.5 trillion investment over the next five years.
That number will only get worse unless President Donald Trump gets serious about committing enough federal money to meaningfully address the problem.
During Tuesday night's State of the Union address, Trump called for unity to push America forward. Fixing our roads provides a obvious opportunity for the president to walk the talk on what is the best opportunity for a bipartisan agreement in Congress.
But thus far it's been hard to take Trump seriously on this issue. Yes, he did call for investment in infrastructure improvements. But he didn't say how he plans to pay for it. The proposal is just talk unless he matches it with federal money.
Thus far, halfway through his term, he has been unwilling to do that. He has yet to offer more than the inadequate plan that he proposed during his 2016 inauguration address and his 2018 State of the Union.
Those were non-starters, too, because the president clings to a fantasy that state and local governments will pay most of the bill.
Past presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower saw the benefits of investing federal dollars in infrastructure. They offered plans for the federal government to contribute 50 percent to 80 percent of the dollars needed to build and repair highways and bridges.
But Trump has yet to offer more than a $200 million, 20 percent investment from the federal government. The nation's local and state governments simply don't have the rest of the money
Adequately funding the nation's needed infrastructure improvements will likely require raising the federal gas tax.
Reagan generally opposed tax increases. But he knew that importance of basic infrastructure to America's success.
In 1982, the gas tax had been stuck at 4 cents a gallon since 1959. Yet Reagan made a deal with Congress to more than double it to 9 cents a gallon to fund transportation projects..
Today, the 18.4-cent federal gas tax hasn't been increased since 1993. The failure to keep up with inflation helps explain why our transportation system has fallen into disrepair.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates the United States has 56,000 structurally deficient bridges. An estimated 32 percent of urban roads and 14 percent of rural roads are in poor condition. Consequently, the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report continues to give the United States an unfavorable ranking compared to other Western nations.
Republicans and Democrats, blue states and red states, and business and labor agree on the need to fix the nation's infrastructure.
The president must work with the Senate and the House on a deal to keep America from falling apart.