US Infrastructure Update

The American Society of Civil Engineers has come out with their 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. This report, which they produce every four years is an honest, impartial evaluation of 16 areas of the country’s infrastructure, created by the true experts in the infrastructure. While it deals with the current condition of the infrastructure, it goes beyond that, evaluating the capacity for future needs, how well the infrastructure’s systems can withstand hazards and the effort and funding that is being put into ensuring that the Infrastructure is maintained and will continue to grow.Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

The overall grade given for our country’s infrastructure is a dismal D+. That’s actually up from four years ago, when the overall grade was a D. Even worse than that, the U.S. infrastructure is ranked as number 24 worldwide, way down from a decade ago, when it was ranked at number five worldwide.

If something isn’t done about the state of our infrastructure, we can expect it to continue sliding downward. That means that every day we can expect individuals and businesses to continue losing money due to the inadequate infrastructure. Simple things, like waiting in traffic are costing U.S. citizens 4.2 billion hours per year and about 2.8 billion gallons of gas.

The dismal grade for our country’s infrastructure has come about due to a variety of factors. In the 1950s and 60s, over four percent of our gross national product (GNP) was spent on our infrastructure, while in recent years, it has dropped to only 2.4 percent of the GNP. Current funding levels aren’t enough to maintain the infrastructure we currently have, let alone provide the necessary expansion for future needs.

Sinkholes popping up in our roadsAnother part of the problem is that much of our infrastructure was built over a half a century ago, with an expected life of 50 years. In other words, we’ve been using it over a decade more than was ever expected. Instead of replacing what’s worn out, we’re spending billions per year in just trying to hold things together with duct tape and superglue.

Just like with an old car, eventually you hit a point where you can’t use any more duct tape and superglue, because there’s nothing left to hold together. Critical parts of the infrastructure, like dams, levees and bridges are reaching that point, yet there aren’t funds available to replace them.

On top of the problems created by reaching the end of the useful service life of much of our infrastructure, we find that entire sections of it are operating way beyond their original designed capacity. Airports, bridges and water treatment facilities are operating at as much as double their original intended capacity, causing constant delays.

Although not rated as the worst in the report card, the electrical grid is one of the most widely recognized areas of U.S. infrastructure that is below par. Power outages have become commonplace, reaching the point that they are expected as a normal part of any severe weather.

With the current budget and spending problems in Washington, the possibilities for seeing improvement in the 2017 report card look grim. Washington is looking for short-term fixes, which will make them look good and get reelected, not the long-term investment that is necessary to see an improvement in our infrastructure. So, we can expect to see more problems with our roads, bridges and electrical grid; in fact, we can expect to see it in all 16 areas of our infrastructure.

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