Saturday, February 20, 2010

Are We Facing an Infrastructure Nightmare Too Expensive to Prevent?

Seventy-years ago, the United States started to create the world's most superior infrastructure that served to tie America together, creating a superpower. By 1961, when much of our infrastructure was practically brand new, and in working order, still realizing the importance of a solid underpinning, we allocated 12% of the federal budget for that cutting edge infrastructure.

Today, after decades of neglect, and as communities start to confront horrifying infrastructure breakdowns, we have chosen to allocate only 2% of our federal budget. The backlog of problems is now too big for any state budget to handle; resulting in each city sitting on a minefield of potential time bombs, because when infrastructure doesn't do its job, the results can wipe out entire communities, which begs the question: Why do people have to die before it becomes a national agenda?

On August 14, 2003, one line shorted that resulted in the blackout that put New York City, a large portion of six states, and Ontario, Canada in the dark, providing one of too many examples of the truth about infrastructure in America. When the electricity stops, everything stops, and we're back to the 1800s. The longer that blackout lasts, the farther back in history we go. As it stands now, the industry needs to spend $5 Trillion by 2030 to repair and expand the power grid.

Speed is everything in the global economy, yet, compared to the rest of the world, America is stuck in the slow lane, because rather than investing in our future - roads, bridges, highways, transit systems, rail systems, airports, dams, sewage system, power grid, levees, pipes - and rebuilding our assets, we chose to spend the money frivolously, investing in nothing. Meanwhile, our aging infrastructure, so intrinsic to our society, is rotting, crumbling, eroding, and obsolete. Double, triple, quadruple the demand on these deteriorating fundamental facilities and systems and you have a formula for disaster.

Take the Delaware Aqueduct (85 miles long), five feet in diameter, between 300-1,500 feet in the ground, and 70 years old, it is the longest continuous tunnel in the world. The water tunnel's chiefly responsible for quenching New York City's thirst, which requires two billion gallons of water a day. Constructed between 1937 and 1945, when high-grade materials were scarce; it's no surprise that today it is leaking massively. There are communities sitting on top of that pipe. Literally they're flooding from underneath and the result is that they're sinking into the ground. However, the Aqueduct hasn't been shut down for inspection since 1957, because engineers fear it could collapse without the pressure of water surging through the system. Planning is underway for an eventual shutdown, but it's going to cost billions of dollars, and that's only if we're lucky enough to get to it before it totally collapses. At that point, the cost will be incomprehensible.

Then there are America's roads and highways. They are headed for a crashing collapse because federal, state and local governments haven't spent the hundreds of billions of dollars needed for maintenance and repair. Built to last 50-years, two-thirds of our busiest roads are now 50-years or older and 33% of our major highways are in poor or mediocre condition.

We can't afford to ignore the most crucial issue - our nation's crumbling infrastructure - absolutely necessary to remain economically competitive any more. Already, it has deteriorated so badly that it is threatening our nation’s economic viability, possibly to the point of plunging the status of America to that of a third world country. Rather than remain a third world country waiting to happen, we must make sure we do not pass up this critical opportunity, to not only prevent total disaster, but also create new jobs on a vast scale at the same time.


Under-taxed Americans are Too Broke to Finance Sustainability Infrastructure


baitnswitch,  19:45  

I was in Mexico City and the roads there were better than many of the roads here...that's pretty sad. This nation is turning into a third world country.

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