Americans have over the years come to believe they have the best infrastructure of most countries in the world. We have generously provided aid to many countries and yet ignored our own aging infrastructure. A few incidents over the years have barely scratched the surface of public awareness or alarm — until Flint, Michigan.
After the shocking revelations of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan spanning almost ten years in jarring reports and stifled truth, several officials and to a lesser degree EPA have been reprimanded or in a few cases lost their jobs because of miscalculations, bad judgement, ignoring the issue, or deliberate cover up.
In the last few days, Trump has requested $100 million be provided to Michigan for Flint Water Relief according to Michigan Live. The funds were provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 on Friday, March 17. They are designed to allow the city to accelerate work to replace lead service lines and make other infrastructure improvements, including upgrades to Flint’s water treatment plant.
BUT – This is only the tip of a far larger problem which has been ignored for many years whether by design or because other crises were taking attention away from their importance.
When most of us think about infrastructure we think about roads and bridges, maybe even water or electricity. But, infrastructure includes more than that. There is waste to consider from liquid to solid. (We have all had some hint of this one after a concert, rally, or strike.) Levees, inland waterways (or lack thereof), public parks, railways, schools, and now more than ever internet and communications which need attention as well.
Really we should be looking at everything that supplies our basic needs when considering infrastructure like the air we breath, medical minimum survival, safe shelter, and other things as well; but, those have emergency response programs, generally have been recently addressed, and are more localized. They do not keep an entire nation moving and functioning during a massive event.
In 1988, Congress chartered National Council on Public Works Improvement report, “Fragile Foundations: A Report on America’s Public Works.” In 1998 though that report was discontinued. ASCE has since then taken up the cause, time, and resources to provide their own infrastructure report because they realized just how important an issue it is for all Americans and countries of the world.
The American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 members of the civil engineering profession in 177 countries. Founded in 1852, ASCE is the nation’s oldest engineering society. ASCE currently has members in 175 countries including a total of ten chapters of which nine are in the US. Every four years for at least twenty years, the group has compiled and presented a report to Capitol Hill on infrastructure.
The Report Card for United States Infrastructure meeting this year was held just as one of the worst March snow events hit the northeast; but, it did not stop members from attending nor did it muffle the seriousness of the report. This year’s report not only backs up Trump’s request for renewal of infrastructure as an employment generating process but shows clearly state-by-state and type of infrastructure where the worst issues to be corrected are needed.
That report breaks down the infrastructure into sixteen categories and assigns a letter grade to each. There is an interactive US map HERE for any interested. In this year’s report only RAILS received a B letter grade. PORTS and SOLID WASTE were the only two that received a C+. Everyone of the others received a D +/- rating. The 2017 Report Card’s investment needs are over 10 years. Their cost estimate total to bring all infrastructure up to par is a staggering $4.59 Trillion. Had deficiencies they noted been addressed from 2001-2017, the price tag while choking would have only been between $1.3-$3.6 trillion. Federal government is not the only one in denial though. Many states have begun addressing but budgets are tight and others like California have misused their monies for illegals and other things rather than addressing state concerns.
In other words while we found monies for myriad other immigrant, social, welfare, and international aid, our own infrastructure was deteriorating to the point that short-term repairs or solutions are no longer alternatives. Only by taking on major programs and projects can we hope to correct what some unexpected major disaster might cause by crippling communications, transportation, energy, and other equally important structural needs.
Quite a wake up call when one reflects on the severity of hurricanes, crippling winter weather, and other events that have struck the country in the last twenty years. Then we see things like the Flint water problem, the EPA created disaster in Colorado waterway, information about EMI possibilities, or hear about internet hacking attacks against core facilities and companies–well let’s just say things are going downhill faster than a high-speed runaway train on a greased mountain track.