The human cost of deteriorating infrastructure

Flood DamageFor the last 20 years, engineers have pointed out that our national infrastructure is deteriorating and that infrastructure investment is not keeping up with what is needed. To date, the focus has been on the lack of public funding due to political pressure to restrain government funding. A recent article in the New York Times highlights the human cost of old bridges, dams, roads, and water and sewage treatment plants going unrepaired. From the article:

It is a concern shared by many Americans. From coast to coast, the country’s once-envied collection of bridges, dams, pipelines, sewage treatment plants and levees is crumbling. Studies have shown that a lack of investment in public infrastructure costs billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, as people sit in traffic or wait for delayed shipments.

The most recent dramatic major collapse is the I-35 W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, but there have been plenty of others. After heavy rains and flooding in South Carolina last month, 36 dams collapsed, killing 19 people. Most of the collapsed dams were more than 100 years old. It is a sober reminder for everybody that most of the major infrastructure in the U.S. has exceeded its expected lifespan and that inaction is now starting to harm lives.

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