[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/01/28/infrastructure.report.card/art.levee.file.gi.jpg caption="The nation's levees got a grade of D- in the report by the The American Society of Civil Engineers, with the "reliability" of many not known."]
Tom Foreman | Bio
Every couple of years something big somewhere breaks and someone (or lots of someones) gets hurt. In New Orleans, it was the levees when Katrina came, crumbling like cookies left too long in milk. In Minneapolis, it was that bridge that buckled unexpectedly beneath the weight of rush hour. And just a few weeks ago outside of DC, it was the water main that burst, turning a major roadway into a whitewater kayaking course. No one was hurt in that one, but once again, engineers are screaming that America had better get serious about fixing its infrastructure, and fast.
I’ll be the first to admit this is not a sexy topic. Debates over the economy, foreign affairs, school performance, even health care reform, are dry; but by comparison they are as steamy as Paris Hilton’s home videos. Politicians know they can get headlines for unveiling a new hospital, talking taxes, or making an impassioned speech about a distant military conflict.
Replacing an aging bridge? Not so much. For that, they’ll get angry phone calls from commuters who are frustrated at the delays are are perfectly happy with the old bridge. After all, it didn’t collapse the last time they crossed it.
But these things do matter.
The latest report card on the nation’s infrastructure from the American Society of Civil Engineers is appalling. If your kid brought home a card like this there’d be no Facebook fun time this weekend.
Across the board, for 15 different systems that we rely on every day – highways, bridges, dams, water supplies, airports, railways, and more – the marks are abysmal. The most common grade is a D. The highest, a C+, went for our handling of solid waste, which I suspect is only because we get so much of it from Congress.
Here are some lowlights from their report: One out of four bridges is structurally deficient or obsolete. Nearly 4,000 dams are potentially dangerous, with about half of them called “high hazards” because they could break and flood communities downstream. (Note to self: Buy a mop.) And we are losing seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day because our water systems have leaky pipes.
The list of problems goes on. Maybe some of it is just a case of folks being overly fretful. I hope so, but then, this is a pretty darn reputable group.
Barack Obama talked about the need to repair the infrastructure throughout his campaign and the new stimulus bill contains money that could do just that. But engineers say the road to this recovery will be very long. And we already know, it has potholes aplenty.
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