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29 Sep, 2010 21:31

America’s crumbling infrastructure

The law of gravity - what goes up must come down – that seems to be what’s happening with America’s infrastructure.

In 2005, more than 1800 people died during Hurricane Katrina, many not from the hurricane itself, but from the flooding that ensued after.

In August 2007 in Minnesota, the Interstate-35 bridge collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

In September 2009, a crack was found in the San Francisco Bay Bridge. A month later the bridge, once called a masterpiece, had to be shut down for days when a cable snapped off.

Just a weeks ago in San Bruno, CA, a natural gas pipeline exploded killing eight people, a sign that lessons taught are not always lessons learned.

We have not been paying attention to it,” said Patrick Natale, the Executive Director with the American Society of Civil Engineers. “If you’re not invested in fixing conditions, it’s going to deteriorate. It’s only a matter of time.”

He also said, politely, that the US is “underachieving”.

But the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card shows grades no one would want to bring home to their parents with especially low scores in drinking water, inland waterways, roads and levees.

Each year the United States invests about 2.4 percent of its GDP in infrastructure, compared to Europe, which spends about 5 percent of its GDP, while China invests about 9 percent.

You look in parts of the world where China, Taipei a lot of Europe, Japan has high speed rail. We’re talking about high speed rail. They have it,” Natale said.

US President Barack Obama mentioned those statistics in a speech on Labor Day, but is also touting progress.

Now, let me tell you, another thing we’ve done is to make long-overdue investments in upgrading our outdated, our inefficient national infrastructure. We’re talking roads. We’re talking bridges. We’re talking dams, levees,” Obama said.

Meanwhile shrinking budgets lead to dwindling resources. It was a major problem in Detroit in early September 2010 when fires spread rapidly throughout the city as nearly a dozen fire stations remained closed. The city cannot afford to hire the 100 firefighters it is short right now. More than 85 homes and structures were destroyed in that fire.

But there is one place where investments are being made now, with American tax dollars. The investing and building is going in overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.