Infrastructure: It’s not sexy, but it matters

Often we rely on those hashtags, texts, selfies and tweets to communicate, but they don’t appear via magic. It takes more than just millions of lines of programming code to make these happen – it takes communication towers, fiber-optic cables and a reliable electric grid. It takes infrastructure and it matters.

It may be one of the least sexy topics to discuss, but one that is integral to our daily lives that is so ubiquitous, we take it for granted.

The first major highway system in the U.S. was built between 1650 and 1753, connecting Boston to Charlestown S.C., and the first major “post road” was christened on May 1, 1693, and connected Portsmouth to Boston. Our nation’s founding fathers knew the importance of having roads and bridges to encourage commerce and national unity. Alexander Hamilton called the development of good roads and canals to be “the greatest of all improvements” — indeed Hamilton was saying #infrastructurematters.

Today, New Hampshire services over 17,000 miles of roads. Unfortunately, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives New Hampshire roads a C- grade for their poor conditions.

We have over 3,800 bridges in New Hampshire. Of those, 80 percent are approaching 40 years old, 650 are over 75 years old and, unfortunately, nearly 400 bridges have been “red-listed” by the state.

Do you know the conditions of the bridges you cross each day?

Investing in infrastructure goes beyond concrete and steel. There is a need for new technology to take advantage of efficiencies and to protect us from new dangers. Did you know our electric grid is vulnerable to hackers and terrorists? Ted Koppel’s eye-opening book, “Lights Out,” details how fragile our electric grid is and how vulnerable we are to terrorists. It is a reality we have to address.

Go home today and unplug EVERYTHING you own. Yes, the refrigerator, microwave, cellphone, television – everything – and leave it off for three days. No hot water, no coffee, but also imagine no heat, no gasoline, no traffic lights, no communications, NOTHING. This is what happens if our electric grid is compromised. We must work with our power suppliers and develop public-private partnership to make our electric grid tamper-proof.

The need to prioritize improvements to our infrastructure is an important economic driver as well.

When I served on the Dover City Council, I led efforts to invest in our cities’ infrastructure. It was critically important to make these investments if our city was to grow and prosper. I supported the building of a new police station. It was needed 20 years ago, and recently they finally cut the ribbon. Our first responders deserve decent, clean and functioning facilities to work.

I served on the building committee to establish a Liberty/NorthEnd Fire Station in Dover. Our residential, commercial and retail growth explosion was in the north end and it was something the large employers and families moving into our city were looking for.

I supported and voted for a $5 million public works project that replaced an out-of-date facility from its riverfront location in the heart of downtown to a modern facility outside of the city core. This relocation has opened the possibility of a $65 million redevelopment of the Dover waterfront.

I supported countless other investments in the city of Dover because I believed our city’s future depended on those investments.

The infrastructure in Dover created an environment to become the fastest-growing city in New Hampshire and one of the youngest demographically. New restaurants, hotels, high-tech and entrepreneurial companies have flocked to our downtown and mill buildings. Dover has a thriving arts community, strong property values and is the new home to the venerable Children’s Museum of New Hampshire.

President Trump is set to propose investing $200 billion on infrastructure with a percentage earmarked for “rural infrastructure.” This investment in our communities will help our economy grow.

If you want our economy to expand  and create new jobs, work with your local community to build a foundation for economic growth that is appealing to all and purposeful in use. Remember: #infrastructurematters.

Matt Mayberry, a former city councilor and school board member from Dover, can be followed at @mattmayberrynh.

Categories: Opinion