A few months back, I remember seeing a post on Facebook from some prominent person who was railing against spending billions or trillions of dollars on infrastructure. It went something along the lines of, I've flown over the whole country, and our infrastructure isn't crumbling.
I'd like to invite that person, who I assume opposed infrastructure spending because of inane political reasons, to hop out of the plane. Rural North Dakotans could show him crumbling infrastructure here on the ground.
I've written a fair amount about rural infrastructure, and Agweek and other news sources have run numerous stories bemoaning the state of infrastructure. But, if you're still uncertain about the necessity of the recently passed $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, let me add my story to the mix.
We had an extremely wet year in 2019. It was so wet that water came up from places we'd never seen water before. A neighbor kept warning us that our main road to town was in danger. We initially didn't see how it was possible that the water from sloughs that at that point were far from the road could ever get that close. But slowly, his prediction came true, and before we knew it, the lapping waves were covering the road.
Our township, like others in the area, has limited funds and certainly did not have the money for a major grade raise.
Sen. Terry Wanzek, who represents us in the North Dakota Legislature, did care. A longtime advocate for effective rural infrastructure, he offered up whatever information he could. Our township board scrambled to apply for available funding. But repairs take time, and we still had a long path to get to town. So Wanzek and his family, who farm some fields in our township, let us make a path through a soybean field, thus saving us and our neighbors many miles and more than a little frustration.
I still shudder to think what would have happened in those months if someone in our township had needed an ambulance or fire truck. Emergency crews never would have made it. Someone very well could have died, all because of our crumbling infrastructure.
Our road is higher now. But anyone who has driven on our roads can attest to the fact that they're still not good. Crumbling would actually be a pretty apt word in some places. And there's another township to the south of us that continues to struggle with repairs, and the folks down there continue to make due with long drives or make-shift roads.
So, this year, I'm thankful that national level politicians — at least some of them — were able to put their immaturity aside and pass a bill that actually should have a positive impact on the people of this country who aren't just flying over. While I talk about roads, others need bridges or broadband or water or public transit or other necessities. The needs are plenty, and not taking care of them would cost us far more than $1.2 trillion in the long run.
I'm not overly optimistic that any of those dollars will trickle down all the way to the rural townships of North Dakota. My fingers are crossed that this will be the beginning of more movements of people who toss off unnecessary political labels to actually do their jobs. But I'm not holding my breath.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.