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Turborama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 02:00 AM
Original message
America’s infrastructure crisis - falling apart at the seams
Edited on Thu Jan-29-09 02:52 AM by Turborama
I just saw on AC360 that">5% of the $819 billion 'Stimulus Package' is going to be spent on infrastructure. However, judging by the below "Report Card" from the ASCE, this will be a massively inadequate amount compared to what is actually needed. Now, I'm no civil engineer, but from what I'm hearing, it sure sounds like America is rotting from the inside and something more than this 'sticking plaster' of just over $40 billion needs to be invested before the whole country literally 'falls apart at the seams'...

2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure

Produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers

The Report Card is an assessment by professional engineers of the nation's status in 15 categories of infrastructure. In 2009, all signs point to an infrastructure that is poorly maintained, unable to meet current and future demands, and in some cases, unsafe. Since the last Report Card in 2005, the grades have not improved. ASCE estimates the nation still stands at a D average. Deteriorating conditions and inflation have added hundreds of billions to the total cost of repairs and needed upgrades. ASCE's current estimate is $2.2 trillion, up from $1.6 trillion in 2005.

A healthy infrastructure is the backbone of a healthy economy. In these challenging times, infrastructure is essential to reviving the nation's fortunes, and in maintaining our high quality of life.


Aviation: D
Bridges: C
Dams: D
Drinking Water: D-
Energy: D+
Hazardous Waste: D
Inland Waterways: D-
Levees: D-
Public Parks & Recreation: C-
Rail: C-
Roads: D-
School: D
Solid Waste: C+
Transit: D
Wastewater: D-

America's Infrastructure GPA = D

Estimated 5 Year Investment Need = $2.2 Trillion

From:">ASCE's 2009 Report Card

-- ---- --

America’s infrastructure crisis

Stephen Flynn

Stephen Flynn is the Ira A. Lipman Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation (Random House, 2007).

America’s infrastructure is in the political spotlight as an increasingly contentious piece of President Barack Obama’s $835 billion economic stimulus package. Republicans like Rep. Harold Roger, R-KY characterize the package as “a rampant spending spree.” The White House maintains that it is the jumpstart the nation’s moribund economy needs to move us out of a severe recession. Missing from this debate is any real acknowledgment that the critical foundations that underpin our modern society are literally crumbling around us, imperiling our safety and security, quality of life, and economic competitiveness.

How bad off is America’s inventory of infrastructure? On January 27, 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineersissued their quadrennial report card on 15 sectors. The grades are not the kind you would have wanted to bring home to your parents: four C’s and eleven D’s. Bottoming out the evaluation are drinking waters systems, levees, wasterwater systems, inland waterway locks, and roads which all were assigned a D- grade. Think about this: water is the basic element of life. To get it to most of our homes and offices whenever we turn on the faucet or flush the toilet requires a vast network of underground pipes that are in such bad repair, we are losing an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water each and every day.

There are 85,000 dams in the U.S., with an average age of 51-years-old. Inspectors have found that 4,000 of them are deficient, 1,819 of which are rated as high hazard because when they fail, people downstream could find themselves with a wall of water suddenly in their living rooms or their homes carried off their foundations. Remember those levees that failed during Hurricane Katrina? Across the United States there are an estimated 100,000 miles of levees that are locally owned and sporadically maintained. The mileage is an estimate because the federal government has never inventoried these levees and no one knows their condition. What we do know is that most are a half-century old and have been neglected, generating a tab of more than $100 billion to repair them.

The 2009 ASCE report reads like a survey that might have been conducted on the eve of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Our airports, rail, and roads have gone from very bad to worse in the past four years. The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System is more than 50 years old and has not been aging gracefully as virtually every American commuter knows. Last year U.S. drivers spent an estimated 4.2 billion hours stuck in traffic. The national power grid has seen 25 percent more demand since 1990, with little meaningful upgrade in its overall capacity. Utility executives literally hold their breath whenever demand spikes during hot July or August days. Without a projected electric utility investment of $1.5 trillion by 2030, brownouts and even blackouts will be routine occurrences.

Our young people have no memory of a time when great public works were a source of national pride. It was our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents who celebrated the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Holland Tunnel, and the Hoover Dam. We once had a transportation system that was the envy of the world. Now we are better known for our congested highways, second-rate ports, third-rate passenger trains and a primitive air traffic control system. Our global image is increasingly one of a superpower that is rotting from within: the I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007, a drowned New Orleans in 2005, and a blacked-out Northeast in 2003.

Americans should be deeply embarrassed and outraged. Like spoiled and lazy kids, we have failed to maintain the fine mansion we have inherited. Instead we have been squandering the infrastructure legacy built with the treasure, tenacity, and inventiveness of our forebears. For nearly 30 years we have been kidding ourselves into believing that we can continue to be safe and prosperous nation by taking for granted and recklessly neglecting the very critical foundations that has made our society the most advanced in the world.

Washington needs to come clean with the American people. Democrats need to stop talking about reinvesting in our infrastructure as a short-term miracle cure for boosting our sluggish economy and Republicans need to wean themselves off of labeling all public investment as a robbing taxpayers of their hard earned dollars. Together our elected officials need to roll-up their sleeves to do the hard work of providing the leadership, setting priorities, mustering the resources to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. This is a task that cannot be completed overnight, but requires a decade-long commitment.

Beyond the “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in the current economic stimulus package, President Obama needs to establish a bipartisan commission, supported by the National Academies of Science, and organizations like the American Society of Engineers to review the infrastructure needs identified by governors and mayors and create a national must-do list based on risk and criticality. While not very sexy, top priority needs to be provided to funding routine maintenance and repairs where each dollar saves up to $16 on the cost of major reconstruction or rehabilitation. It’s like paying for regular oil changes so you don’t have to replace the car engine.

In the end, mustering the resources to pay for the upkeep of critical infrastructure is a sound short- and long-term investment. It provides well-paying jobs for working Americans while bolstering our economic competitiveness and improving our quality of life. It makes our nation more secure by removing the kinds of vulnerabilities that terrorists or future adversaries may be tempted to target or exploit. Finally, we have an obligation to our children to pass along an infrastructure legacy that is greener, and more sustainable than one we have inherited.

From the’s-infrastructure-crisis/">AC360 Blog

-- ---- --

U.S. infrastructure crumbling

Katherine Harmon

The nation's roads, bridges, levees, schools, water-supply and other infrastructure are in such bad shape that it would take $2.2 trillion over five years to bring them up to speed. But even that huge chunk of change would only raise their grade from a "D" average to a "B," according to the latest "Report Card for America's Infrastructure" released today by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

"We've been operating on a patch-and-pray system," says ASCE President D. Wayne Klotz. That is, patch something and pray that it holds up – instead of providing regular improvements for aging facilities.

Like a car, he notes, if you keep skipping oil changes and ignoring the funny clanking noise, it's going to be a lot more expensive to fix the major problems happen down the proverbial road. In fact, the current estimate of $2.2 trillion is 70 percent more than the $1.8 trillion the ASCE estimated it would cost to bring the U.S. infrastructure up to par four years ago. And the D grade has remained the same.

"It's the kind of report card you would have expected on the eve of the collapse of the Roman Empire," says Stephen Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank in New York. "It's not the kind of grade you want to bring home to Mom."

Flynn says a major problem is that we take the infrastructure for granted, which makes it difficult to generate awareness until there's a major event, such as the 2007 fatal bridge collapse in Minneapolis or levee failures during deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"There's no sex appeal to invest in it, so we don't," he says.

Among those receiving D-minus grades: roads, levees, drinking water facilities (leaky water pipes lose about 7 billion gallons of clean water in the U.S. daily, according to the report) and inland waterways. Solid waste was at the top of the class, earning a C-plus – the same grade it received on the last report card – because about a third of the millions of tons of garbage generated in the U.S. annually is recycled or otherwise repurposed.

Klotz says the report card, issued every four years since 1998, was released two months earlier than usual this year in the hope that it might encourage lawmakers to fork over more federal funds (in the pending $825 billion stimulus package) to overhaul the near-failing system.

From:">Scientific American

(Edit to fix typo)
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Liberal_in_LA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 02:28 AM
Response to Original message
1. Interesting article. Scary too.
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4_TN_TITANS Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 02:49 PM
Response to Reply #1
10. Scary is right...
when you depend on a TVA failing dam for all your water. Cities in Tennessee that are downstream from failing dams have had evacuation plans for awhile now. That's pitiful when the people spend more energy preparing to cope with a disaster than actually preventing it.
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leftstreet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 02:31 AM
Response to Original message
2. Interesting that the M$M didn't think we needed repairs on Dubya's watch
Looks like they've got these stories ready to go on day one!
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democracy1st Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 02:55 AM
Response to Original message
3. K & R
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izquierdista Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 03:41 AM
Response to Original message
4. No sex appeal
On the other hand, there is plenty of material to turn into videos to show 3rd graders. When I was in 3rd grade back in the 1960's, it seemed like we were always watching movies of the California Aqueduct, the Colorado River Aqueduct, Hoover Dam, the TVA, etc., etc., etc.

I would give Obama credit that the $40 billion is just a down payment on the $2.2 trillion, and that as the economy improves, more funds will be forthcoming. Remember, the federal government does not have to fund 100% of the 2.2 trillion, as many of the items on the list (schools, wastewater, solid waste) are locally funded items. Why just think of what could be fixed if the Defense Department could let go of some of their $600 billion!
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Turborama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 10:02 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. Good points and well made
This wasn't meant as a jab at Obama's administration, per se. It's more about voicing concern in general.

"what could be fixed if the Defense Department could let go of some of their $600 billion!"

Now there's a thought!
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whistle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 05:51 AM
Response to Original message
5. Bush's tax cuts over 8 years were $2.35 trillion and war spending over $3.0 trillion
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Turborama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 10:16 AM
Response to Reply #5
9. Sooo...
Holy crap! Correct me if I'm wrong, because I'll admit that I'm not very big on economics, but we're talking about a fiscal loss of over $5.35 trillion, right? To get it into perspective, what does that work out to per year of Bush's presidency?

From May 2007:

The Bush 43 team is about short-term political gain. Full stop. Their indifference to the suffering they will leave behind, to their squandering of a nation’s patrimony, is unprecedented in American history. But not, evidently, much of a subject to trouble our pliant media.

Thanks for sharing those articles, very interesting.
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SalmonChantedEvening Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 07:13 AM
Response to Original message
6. Another mess in his wake.
The Grownups are out of office, but the rebuilding may take a generation.

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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 07:22 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Deleted message
Message removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
slipslidingaway Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 03:26 PM
Response to Original message
11. Every year since 1999 a version of this bill has been introduced
and it never went anywhere. Now we have used the money for other projects such as bailing out the banks.


The link "Related Legislation" shows the old bills.

Kucinich: Economic Stimulus Package Needs To Focus On States And Localities That Need Help The Most

Thursday, 17 January 2008

"The bill would create the Federal Bank for Infrastructure Modernization (FBIM). The bank, as an extension of the Federal Financing bank under the Treasury Department, would establish zero interest mortgage loans for states and local governments to use to fund specific projects. The loans would bear a small fee of one-quarter of one percent of the loan principle to cover the administrative costs of the FBIM. The bill would not require Congress to appropriate any funds and would effectively double the amount of financing that is available to states and localities for infrastructure investment.

“This bill is not just an infrastructure improvements bill but a jobs bill as well,” stated Kucinich. “The Cleveland-area, and big and small cities across the country need this common-sense bill.”

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ihavenobias Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-29-09 03:29 PM
Response to Original message
12. K & R. I hope this is a big wake-up call to everyone voting on this stimulus plan (hint, hint)
Especially after every single Republican in the House gave it the middle finger. I agree with John Kerry, Rachel Maddow and Cenk on this:

If the Republicans don't support the plan, let's take out all of the BS that was put in there to specifically to placate them. Let's make this a GOOD plan instead of a bipartisan one.
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