One of President Trump's top priorities for 2018 is pushing to update America's aging infrastructure that means our system handling roads, bridges, dams, power, and rail. We don't yet know exactly what shape the plan will take but we do know there are trillions upon trillions of dollars in improvements waiting to be made. And ultimately, one way or another, you'll be picking up the tab. So today we examine the costly Road to Success.
There's no better example of America's neglected "infrastructure" than the old Charleroi lock and dam on the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.
Sharyl Attkisson: Is the concrete falling in?
Kirk McWilliams: It is. The concrete is in very poor condition.
There's a lot of erosion or scour on the faces from barges rubbing and as a result, concrete is falling into the lock chamber.
Kirk McWilliams is the resident engineer overseeing the mega-project to modernize the lock.
Sharyl Attkisson: This was built in the 1930s?
Kirk McWilliams:1930s. So with the condition of the concrete, the foundation that it's founded on, and the size of the chamber require the construction chamber.
Right now, the lock is too narrow and short for the kind of barges pushed by today's towboats, like the Janet Johnson. So it takes longer to line them up and squeeze them through.
That extra time is costly. There's a real economic impact, considering how much of the goods we use to travel on the waterways.
Sharyl Attkisson: If this river traffic had to be moved onto railroads and highways, would it gravely impact that part of the infrastructure?
Lenna Hawkins: Definitely.
Lenna Hawkins oversees projects for the US Army Corps of Engineers in the Pittsburgh district.
Lenna Hawkins: There's a kind of a conversion of about 10 million tons of traffic on the river would convert to about almost 400,000 trucks on the roads.
And many of America's highways are in no better condition.
President Trump has promised a national upgrade.
President Trump: Countless American industries, businesses, and jobs depend on rivers, runways, roads, and rails that are in dire and even desperate condition. And millions of Americans rely on their water and pipes and pumps that are on the verge of total failure and collapse.
Sharyl Attkisson: While cities and states across America struggle with the cost of fixing failing dams, bridges, roads, and railroads, The Trump administration has a new vision. It cuts back how many federal taxpayers kick in for repairs. Instead, it relies heavily on partnerships between local governments and private corporations to get the job done in a way that ultimately costs less.
Gary Cohn: Our job is to manage all the economic decisions made at the White House.
Gary Cohn is the President's top economic adviser.
Gary Cohn: The cost of our infrastructure, or the lack of our infrastructure, costs American businesses money. It also hurts the quality of life.
He points to America's flight infrastructure as sorely outdated. Which is why he says President Trump has asked Congress to invite private industry into the federal system that directs planes, air traffic control, converting it into a, not for profit.
Gary Cohn: Why would it be more efficient? Because we would actually bring in third-party capital, they would get paid from the fees that are already being charged. The fees are there, the money's there, but we could modernize that system. That system is still a land-based radar system when much of the world today is using a GPS system, the same system you use to navigate your car from point A to point B, we don't use that in air traffic control. We should use that, but that's a large capital expenditure.
The special fast lanes around Washington DC represent the most common type of those public-private partnerships. Private companies build the roadways or bridges and collect the tolls.
The largest public-private deal in the US now involves the near total rebuild of LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
Here in Pennsylvania, the state has signed a 25-year deal with a private company to repair and maintain nearly 600 small bridges. It's intended to make repairs faster and cheaper while the company makes a profit.
Putting public projects in private hands isn't without controversy. Critics argue companies are more concerned with their own bottom line than taxpayers. In fact, the Trump administration recently signaled it's wavering on the heavy push for public-private partnerships. A spokesman told us "they are certainly not the silver bullet and we will continue to consider all viable options."
Historically, the highway trust fund was intended to pay for our surface transportation needs. We fund it by paying an 18-and-a-half-cent tax on every gallon of gas we buy. But it's not nearly enough. So general tax money has been kicking in and many projects have been put off.
Mark Magalotti of the University of Pittsburgh has been studying the dilemma and says ironically, part of the funding shortfall has been caused by efficient vehicles that use less gas so that means less tax money in the trust fund.
Mark Magalotti: We're trying to encourage people to use public transit, to walk, to bike; all these things are working against the current funding method.
He favors a tax instead on miles traveled.
Mark Magalotti: There's been a lot of research and discussion about what's called a VMT tax, vehicle-miles-traveled. So we would tax you based on the number of miles you drive your car rather than the gallons of gas that you consume. That way, high-performance cars, in terms of fuel efficiency; hybrid cars, electric cars, would all pay a fair share.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says with automated cars and services like Uber, it will only be harder to raise money through traditional means like city parking garages.
Mayor Bill Peduto: My budget, I have $40 million dollars that comes in through a parking tax. When a car can just drive around in circles and never have to go into a garage because it's picking up people all day, how do I find a way to put in that hole of almost 1/10th of my entire budget, because nobody is parking in garages anymore?
While the sources of funding are debated, the clock continues to tick on America's infrastructure and it's clear that delays cost money. Your money.
Sharyl Attkisson: Has the result of the delay in this project, or how long it's taken, ultimately probably cost more money to the people paying for it and taxpayers?
Lenna Hawkins: I will tell you definitely yes. Its original estimated cost was about $750 million. And right now we're looking at $2.7 billion. That's huge.
This weekend the president meets with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to refine their pitch, before going to Congress. They are hoping for bi-partisan support.