The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Here’s what Post readers would do with a slice of $1 trillion in infrastructure spending

The pitches include repairs for sidewalks, wider highways, better transit service and efforts to avert flooding.

A dead-end street in Virgin, Utah. Resident Jean Krause, 62, hopes that pedestrian bridges could link parts of the town divided by desert dry washes that are difficult to cross on foot. (Jean Krause)
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After The Washington Post examined 10 projects around the nation to show what a $1 trillion spending package might mean for the nation’s infrastructure, we asked readers how they would spend a slice of the money.

Readers pitched everything from new housing to sewer upgrades, as well as wider highways and better transit networks. They described challenges they face getting around each day and how their homes are in peril from floods, underscoring how infrastructure connects to their lives.

Many of the projects The Post examined are on a grand scale, with budgets running into the billions. But submissions from readers show interest in even modest changes in communities across the country.

Years of neglect and underfunding. Lots of future needs. Ten projects show what’s at stake for the nation’s roads, bridges, ports and rails.

Jean Krause, 62, said she hopes pedestrian bridges and a tunnel can be built where she lives in Virgin, Utah. The small community near the Arizona border sits at the foot of a mesa. It is split by desert dry washes that are difficult to navigate on foot and a busy road used by visitors to nearby Zion National Park.

“It would bring the town closer together. It would be a social good,” Krause said in an interview. “People wouldn’t have to be driving their cars just to visit their neighbor.”

Krause’s suggestion is a reminder that pedestrian facilities can change the face of remote communities as well as big cities.

Emmett Wald, 27, of Northampton, Mass., and Maureen Hasty, 44, of West Reading, Pa., said they would like sidewalks in their communities repaired.

“I have tripped and fallen on my borough’s uneven sidewalks,” Hasty wrote. “I have holes in the tops of my sneakers from catching them on the edges of heaved sidewalks. When my children were smaller, I had to choose my route based where it was least difficult to push a stroller or pull them in a wagon.”

Timothy Wyant, 73, said he is hoping for the replacement of the aging ferry that serves Peaks Island, Maine, where he lives. The ferry is a vital connection for the 1,000 or so islanders, helping them get to jobs in nearby Portland, carry high school students and keeping the grocery store stocked.

“You’re going to see everybody at the ferry,” Wyant said.

The ferry company, Casco Bay Lines, came up with a concept for a new diesel-hybrid ferry. But when it released the proposal for shipbuilders to bid on, it received only one offer back that was too high for the company to afford.

Now when Wyant and his wife watch news reports about the infrastructure package moving through Congress that mention potential spending on roads and bridges, he said they shout in unison: “And ferries!”

Steep budget cuts left Alaska with only one operating mainline ferry. Then it broke down.

In New Orleans, David Bruce, 60, said he hopes a water pumping system designed to keep the low-lying city dry could be replaced. Bruce described a system that relies on obsolete equipment dating back a century that relies on custom-made parts and even a special electricity supply. When it rains heavily, Bruce said officials let people park in the medians of streets to raise their cars a few inches.

“We worry any time we get heavy rains, because frequently the city announces that one or more of the pumps are down,” Bruce said in an email.

Lona Hansen, 70, said she wants a better transit system in Des Moines. Hansen said she has not held a driver’s license since 1979 and uses a wheelchair, making her dependent on transit and paratransit to get around. She said that while in many places transit accounts for only a small share of trips, it is still vital.

“For the people who use it, it’s really, really important,” Hansen said. “I don’t have an alternative.”

Hansen said using paratransit services, in particular, requires planning and waiting around. A visit to the doctor might require a buffer of an hour on either end to guarantee she gets there on time and has a ride home. Visits with friends have to revolve around the system’s schedule.

DeWain Feller, 58, flipped the issue on its head, describing his family as dependent on cars to traverse Rochester, N.Y., and said better transit would benefit the city.

“My neighborhood used to have more stores and services within walking distance, but our region’s sprawl has led to a decline of our neighborhood,” Feller wrote.

While funding for transit proved contentious in the Senate’s infrastructure negotiations, agencies are preparing to get record levels of investment even as they struggle to win back riders who fled during the pandemic.

Transit agencies are struggling to make ends meet. They’re also preparing for record federal investment.

Donna Rogers, 64, would like to see lanes added to Interstate 5 to try to ease congestion where she lives in Seattle’s booming northern suburbs.

“You sit in traffic for longer and longer periods,” Rogers said, adding that a planned light rail to serve the region is expected to take more than a decade to reach her city of Everett.

Transportation leaders in Washington state have struggled to balance the need to serve the rapidly growing population while also maintaining the existing network of roads and bridges. A review by The Post found the state spends about three-quarters of its road construction budget on adding capacity.

Elizabeth Baumann, 69, is also looking for solutions to congestion in Austin, another fast-growing city.

“Current highways are barely able to handle existing demand, let alone future needs,” Baumann wrote. “There is virtually no mass transit.”

Baumann said she did not think widening highways alone will be the solution, suggesting new stoplights and one-way streets, along with broader bus coverage.

“I know that nothing will happen overnight,” Baumann wrote in an email. “I do know that people can deal with most anything as long as they feel some ownership in the process, understand what’s being done and are kept apprised of the progress.”

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