Monday, September 12, 2011
An Observation about Infrastructure
There is nothing more boring than infrastructure. No one really likes talking about it and over the decades no one has really worried about funding it. There is nothing sexy or glamourous about fixing sewage systems, water mains, roads, and bridges.
As a result infrastructure is largely ignored. It’s sort of like having to replace the roof or commodes in our homes. No one really wants to do it. People would prefer to spend money on other things than they do replacing the leaking water heater.
That is until it’s a bad leak and the basement is flooded. Or the roof really gets bad and destroys the living room. Then it’s ‘what were we thinking when we didn’t...’
Whether people want to admit it or not, the American infrastructure is rotting. The WPA built things in the ‘30's during the Great Depression. The interstate highway system was built in the ‘50's and ‘60's. Since then we’ve done virtually nothing. Cities are dealing with water mains built by people in the WPA and many highways and bridges are much the same. Things are not being replaced and things are not being maintained properly.
Sometimes I think in our worries about our problems outside our borders, we miss that we have a huge problem that is destroying our nation from the center in. We have a rotting infrastructure.
Recently, in Louisville, there were two major water main breaks near the University of Louisville. They were old, antiquated systems that had not been properly maintained. In the region the Sherman Minton Bridge is closed indefinitely plunging the region into chaos. Commuters now have to face the daily nightmare of getting over the river each day. The three bridges we had were inadequate and now there are two. Inspections have been put off on them because, well, we cannot reduce the traffic flow any more than we have.
Why don’t we address infrastructure? The answer is always the same. We can’t afford it.
The President recently outlined ‘some’ of this but carefully avoided using the word infrastructure. It has become a dirty word. Perhaps, instead of avoiding the word, he should have used the word, emphatically, and explain how our nation’s infrastructure is rotting away. And use those words: rotting away. It is rotting away.
People try to dismiss this and say it’s overstated and everything is really okay. It is not overstated and it is not okay. Our infrastructure is rotting away. If you want to know if it’s okay ask commuters sitting in bumper to bumper traffic because of a closed bridge if things are okay.
Ask people who have no water or sewage if it’s okay because water mains have broken.
Ask commuters in St. Louis if the detours they have to take around sections of rotted interstate if things are okay.
But we can’t afford it. Fine.
But ask this question instead. Can we afford not to?