How America Fails Its Infrastructure and How Things Can Change

America's infrastructure is in trouble, and according to author Barry B. LePatner, the flawed systems meant to alleviate these problems should take most of the blame. He offers some possible solutions.
September 2, 2008, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Our nation's infrastructure is in dire shape. If the flood coverage following the Midwest's 30-plus deadly levee breaks this past summer doesn't convince you, think back a year or so ago. The collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis last year left many of us pondering the safety of our highways and byways. And who could ever forget the shocking images of post-Katrina New Orleans? If you're wondering what America has done in response to these disasters, the answer is "not nearly enough" – and that does not bode well for the future."

"If you want to pinpoint a common problem in each of these infrastructure failures, look no further than the systems used to identify needed repairs and to allocate funds for infrastructure remediation. Since the 2005 National Transportation Act, states are allowed to do what they choose with the money given to them by the federal government. For the very first time, the federal government has stepped back from establishing national guidelines for the design and maintenance of our critical infrastructure facilities."

"Unfortunately, the powers that be – politicians constantly vying for re-election – prefer to spend that money on things that get noticed by the public. Simply put, they get far more political mileage from, say, beautifying an old park than from making (less glamorous) repairs on a bridge or levee. Consequences can be disastrous."

"Here are a few of my own solutions:

Stop using inaccurate statistics as justification for not spending the necessary monies on infrastructure.

Start calculating "real costs" when making decisions regarding the long-term impact of potential disasters.

Force politicians and other government officials to act on expert recommendations given to them."

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