Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crumbling Infrastructure

McClatchy has a report today that calls attention to the "ticking time bomb" of our nation's infrastructure. The collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis last year should have been a wake-up call to the crumbling bridges, highways, and transit systems in many cities around the country. Instead, an interview with someone from the American Society of Civil Engineers says we have "a patch-and-pray approach, not a strategic, more thoughtful approach."

This seems like a good time for the country to take a step back and really evaluate. What do we want the cities of our future to look like? What infrastructure do we need to get ourselves there? What do we do with the old infrastructure? It seems clear that the model laid out in the 1950s, that's now starting to deteriorate, was dependent on cars and isn't sustainable in the future. We need more public transit, city-to-city rail, and bridges that are pedestrian-friendly.

Another point that comes out of this article is pork is useful for rebuilding infrastructure. While John McCain and Sarah Palin rail against useless spending and talk about the "bridge to nowhere," they seem to forget that most of our countries roads, bridges and public transit systems were built with the help of federal funds. This is another part of what never made sense to me about Palin's "bridge to nowhere" line in her speech. She talked about how if Alaskans wanted a bridge, they would build it themselves. Given that bridges are expensive and that there aren't very many Alaskans, such a statement would result in the highest tax burden in the country, simply to build a bridge.

While it's a popular talking point, it certainly doesn't make any sense when you're talking about building infrastructure to discount federal dollars.

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