Monday, June 16, 2008

The Impotence of Impaired Infrastructure

Politics has impaired America's infrastructure to the point of impotence. Its physical structures are crumbling under constant battering for several decades, in conditions that fail to satisfy current levels of service. The perception of being the most prosperous nation on earth is largely due to its consumerist extravagance that has resulted in enormous budget deficits and staggering debts globally; but the state of disrepair and hazards of its infrastructure leaves an image of a backward country that is mired in third world impasse'.

The country's 60,000 bridges are in doubtful condition, where a survey revealed 33% of all urban bridges to be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The country's water highways - the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and a dozen other tributaries where bulk cargoes of grains, coal, and other commodities are moved to booming global markets, pass through locks built more than 70 years ago - and are on the verge of falling apart. The invisible infrastructure of pipes buried underneath, that bring fresh water and takes away dirty water are decrepit, leaking, and overflowing. There are regions where the pipe systems were built 50 to 100 years ago. America's railway systems are way behind compared with Singapore, Korea and Japan. Of the 79,000 dams in the US, more than 10,000 are considered to have a high hazard risk of failure. The development of America's communities and regions are stymied by disconnected road networks, interstate highways and expressways; which are also inadequate in handling current capacity and a growing population.

The danger levels of the country's collapsing physical networks have been signaled by events as the trapped miners in Utah, smashed levees in New Orleans, busted steam pipes and flooded subways in New York City, a collapsed bridge in Minnesota, flooding in Iowa, to name a few. The American Society of Engineers estimates that bringing the nation's transportation and resources network to merely functional level would require $1.6 trillion and five years of construction. Yet, this would not accommodate the growth in the number of users in the coming years. The decay in the country's infrastructure and its long term effects on the US economy, and on its very competitiveness, is not lost on the politicians; and they have sounded the alarm on a situation that resulted from their own conceited neglect and overwhelming incompetence at harnessing a visionary method of development.

The patchwork approach to sustainable infrastructure has not passed filling potholes, removing debris, and other temporary, short term remedies. There is no national vision of how to upgrade and advance America's infrastructure. Money allocated by Congress goes to pet projects of the congressmen to win favor and popularity with their constituents, without looking out for long term impacts of a decaying infrastructure backbone. Money allocated for maintenance are diverted to other capital projects because photo ops and ribbon cutting of new structures will get front page coverage in the local papers, while maintenance work hardly merits a mention except for a lone unread billboard at the site.

Global environmental conditions will make matters worse, but even this phenomenon is being debated by those who disbelieve in its presence. The stubborn desire to deny lifestyle change prevails and its messengers crucified at every turn. And America continues to spend billions on wars in 2 fronts; wars that are costly to continue and where victory is difficult to define. If the country cannot have a vision for infrastructure development that would benefit itself and its own people, how can it possibly be credible to have a vision for other countries and their respective peoples? What pride is there in believing that yours is the most prosperous nation on the planet when that very prosperity is financed by debts from other countries? What is the point of boasting about creating advanced technologies when other countries lead the way in its applications, profits, and use, while your own people cannot even be adequately benefited by a simple broadband interconnection?

Yet it remains stuck in political debates, arguing who could best lead the country out of its sorry predicament. But the arguments are not really based on competence nor capability, but on race and partisanship; not on what's good for the country, but what is best for my party; not on victory for the nation, but triumph for my political spectrum. The election is an exercise for blind followers, deaf speech makers, and brain washed supporters who have all refused the truth, and who each create a lie they can rally to.

It has been 8 continuous years of decline, and decades of indifference. It may not stand any longer.



Zhu said...

This is quite worrying, indeed.

I know infrastructures in Quebec are getting really old and unsafe, and people are scared, especially after the bridge collapsed a year ago. Even I can't help looking at the cracked concrete bridges when I go to Montreal...

It's a bit better in other provinces but our roads are terrible, mostly because of the winter.

I didn't know USA had it that bad. I guess most of us still see it as a wealthy country...

genny said...

Your blog is quite remarkable lots of informations. Thanks for the comments in my blog. I love friends and i am always loyal to them.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Zhu,

This situation had been raised since 2003, but no immediate response has been received from Congress, save for the investigation and research reports that resulted out of it.

I think Americans still believe they are wealthy, without realizing they are in deep in debt and do not have the capacity, currently, to be competitive.

They will have to rebuild their infrastructure at great cost, with a war going on, on borrowed money at that, that could be a tall order. :-)--Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Genny,


Thanks for your kind words. The comments are my pleasure.

I too am a loyal person and I follow a strict code of reciprocity. You can expect me in your site more often. Thanks for the visit. :-) --Durano, done!

DineometerDeb said...

The United States is the new Guatemala. : >

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Dineometerdeb,


I wouldn't take it that far at the moment, as I surely don't have a basis for comparison. :-) --Durano, done!

Tapline said...

Brad,,,Good research,,,,,However with the current price of Gas and with it ever rising. Most Americans will be driving less making less wear and tear on our highways and bridges. Maybe they will last longer. I do know what your talking about and I think structures like bridges are being replaced slowly, but surely and I'm sure most of our roads will match up with any other country as far as upkeep and new construction.. We do have enviornmental organizations who have kept construction on roads and their expansion in limbothrough lawsuits and manditory studies for years because they will be impacting on a titmouse or something or other......Just something we have to contend with.....We are our own worse enemy....stay well....

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tapline,

I believe too that the price of gas and oil will relieve the roads and bridges somewhat of traffic, but still, maintenance is hardly ever done on most.

As the American Society of Engineers estimates, bringing them to functioning level would take 5 years and $1.6 trillion in cost. In 5 years time, more battering would have taken place.

You're right, we are our own worst enemy. :-) --Durano, done!