Like those bridges and roads and trains tracks you've got there? Want to keep them? That'll be $2 trillion.

That's how much the Urban Land Institute estimates the U.S. needs to invest in infrastructure just to keep what's already in place from falling apart.

Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched!

Everybody else in the world gets this. In Europe, countries realize that investing in infrastructure might just create jobs while promoting economic growth further down the line. India, China, and Brazil are investing in roads and sewer systems and dams at a pace that will quickly outstrip the one set by our huff-puffing, faltering empire.

To the Obama administration's credit, the executive branch has made infrastructure a top priority. It's Congress that has punted on major bills to fund transportation. So, yes: Win the future! Build high-speed trains and electric grids! Just don't expect the federal government to devote funds to them.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.