America's crumbling infrastructure

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by OutThere, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. OutThere macrumors 603

    OutThere

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    #1
    Inspired by the recent Long Island Railroad fire that impacted hundreds of thousands of NYC commuters, I've been thinking about the problems we face with the American infrastructure in the coming years. The LIRR fire involved a mechanical switching system using pulleys and levers developed in 1913, the failure of which interrupted a majority of eastbound trains.

    Infrastructure is politically very uninteresting, to a dangerous extent in my opinion. While we get all worked up wasting time and energy on 'hot button' issues and continue to funnel money into the Middle East, we're largely ignorant of how poorly we've maintained much of our infrastructure.

    I'm particularly interested in what people who advocate massive budget slashing have to say about this. Where is the money going to come from to fix roads, bridges, levees and all those other things we unthinkingly rely on every day? The much criticized ARRA stimulus took a step in the right direction, with ~$100 billion towards infrastructure projects. The American Society of Civil Engineers, however, still gives the national infrastructure a 'D' overall and suggests that there is an investment of $2.2 trillion needed over 5 years. Many of these facilities are natural monopolies or public goods and truly best paid for by a government.

    [​IMG]
    (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/)



    Unfortunately the way the American media-political machine works, I fear it will take more of the below for people to realize that infrastructure is under-prioritized. It quickly inspired a gas tax increase in Minnesota to pay for maintenance.

    [​IMG]
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-35W_Mississippi_River_bridge)
     
  2. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #2
    We've become so over-committed to "entitlements" in social spending that we have very little discretionary funding in the budget. That's at all levels of government, not just the feds.

    The result is a lack of funding for boring things such as maintenance of infrastructure. That's why the pressures for selling or leasing public facilities to such as the toll-road consortiums, as example. Desperation.

    But $100 billion for infrastructure from the stimulus money? The priority for the lion's share of 0that money was saving the federal buddies of Wall Street, the big investment banks. I doubt that anybody in the White House knows what "infrastructure maintenance" really means--unless they have a friend who's a highway contractor.

    My electric co-op is dealing with it, via doubling the meter fee (demand charge) from $17 to $35 per month. And that particular meter is on a water well where I use about $4 worth of kw-hr a month for pumping. PITA.

    The only solution for many water, sewer and electric suppliers is to raise rates--which is constrained by public utility commissions and public outcry. Thus an ongoing decay, commonly.

    "Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there."
     
  3. Shivetya macrumors 65816

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    #3
    Hmm, the roads where I live and in my state; Georgia; are doing very well. Then again we tend to spend out tax dollars that were earmarked for roads, well on roads. We also do vote in 1% sale tax increases that expire periodically that are targeted to road improvements. We do the same for schools when building or improving them is required.

    Too many states piss away their money on do nothing projects or making monuments to politicians. We did that in Georgia for a while too. We even have this wonderful toll road, GA 400, that was supposed to not be a toll road after it got paid off. Of course the tolls were only supposed to be used to pay off GA 400 and keep it repaired. Neither of those two happened. Well, we did pay it off but the toll remains. Then it was found out that money was being diverted all the time and then the justifications for that came rolling out.

    Needless to say, why should we not expect crumbling infrastructure when politicians cannot be trusted to even obey the laws they make. We know their promises aren't worth the air they used to speak them.



    The typical strawman argument you use works on the play ground. I can come up with "this, this, or this, and even that" to support any cause I think taxes could be used for and slashing taxes is bad. It is a silly game.


    Simply put, government at all levels has grown too large to be effective. It simply loses too much money on its own internal support. There is so much duplication in effort and so much fraud because the size and monies involved are staggering.
     
  4. rdowns macrumors Penryn

    rdowns

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    #4
    Sadly, we'll likely continue to ignore it until some iconic bridge collapses and hundreds die.
     
  5. PerfSeeker macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    Well here in the Seattle area, road/bridge improvements are happening constantly.
     
  6. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #6
  7. chrmjenkins macrumors 603

    chrmjenkins

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    #7
    As I understand it, part of the issue with the bridge featured in this thread was inadequate inspection. Technically speaking, aging our infrastructure may be, but proper inspection and reporting should be sufficient to avoid disasters like these. Am I in fact mistaken, and collapses and other calamities will persist despite use of best practice in inspections?
     
  8. Queso macrumors G4

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    #8
    Whilst PerfSeeker and Shivetya's posts show that at least some investment is going into improvement and maintenance infrastructure is way more than just roads, rails and bridges. Sewers, water reservoirs, storm drains, flood defences, the electricity distribution grid, all of these demand constant looking after if they are to be relied upon when needed. I can easily believe the $2.2 billion (rather than milliard ;)) figure when you take it all into account.
     
  9. quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #9
    I think what he meant was a bridge more iconic like the golden gate or Brooklyn Bridge collapsing due to improper maintenance would bring the issue to the front of the average American.

    And if I remember correctly, the stimulus bill had a lot more money going into infrastructure, but the Republicans labeled it as people serving their interests and pet projects and thus reduced.
     
  10. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #10
    One of my father's early jobs with the Texas Highway Department was bridge construction on TX 35 along the coast. He figured out how to use bay water in the concrete mix. Those bridges are still in use, today--and were built in the 1930s. Quality construction makes a big difference.

    In way too many states, contractors get away with too much cheating from the specifications. From my father's stories from his 41 years of highway work, it seemed most prevalent in states with a lot of organized crime.

    Then you have state collusion, as in Florida back in the really bad old days. Their highway folks would let road contracts during tourist season, particularly through areas with small shops. The reduced traffic meant reduced business along the route. They'd go broke, and the Condo Developers would buy them out for pennies on the dollar. (John D. McDonald novelized this in the Travis McGee book, "Pale Gray for Guilt") I personally saw all that along A1A from around Miami on up toward Pompano.

    Anyhow, the stimulus money was never really intended to do much beyond help the big investment banks. Just more mouth music from the Beltway Bandits. And it won't change, either...
     
  11. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #11
    it is made a lot worse right now because with states budgets sawing off bone infrastructure budgets are cut beyond what is needed just to maintain the road much less plan for updates.

    TXDOT has canned some needed projects because they do not have any money to do them. I willing to bet CADot has done the same and every other DOT. They just do not have the money to do what is needed to maintain the current system much less expand them.

    In the so call stimus the congressmen/sentators would fight if another state got more money than theirs no matter the logic. For infestructure states like Texas should get a lot more money than state like Flordia or New York. Mind you Texas would get screwed because it is red but for roads Texas is big. We have a lot of miles of road for our population and require a lot more rest stops in side the state compared to others because in Texas you can drive for 10 hours easy and never leave the state.

    CA should get a fair amount of money for instruction because of its raw size.

    The infrastructure money is needed from the fed right now for almost all states because well they are sawing off bone just to make it threw the year and infrastructure is a sure fired place to get it from.
     
  12. sysiphus macrumors 6502a

    sysiphus

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    #12
    I assume you haven't driven on Mercer street recently. Or tried to use the South Park bridge. Or examined the current plans for the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

    Then again, just ask Mayor McGinn what his answer is...I'm sure adding new bike lanes will fix everything. Pretty sad that he's supposed to be an improvement over Nickels.
     
  13. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #13
    "The sun done riz and the sun done set, and we ain't out of Texas, yet." Via I-10 it's 880 miles from Louisiana to New Mexico.

    One of the few taxes of which I approve is the transportation fuel tax, and there have been no increases in years--which is foolish, given the inflation in construction costs. California's fuel tax, as I understand it, is set up as a percentage sales tax--which allows them an advantage over the states with a fixed tax per gallon.
     
  14. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #14
    Or maybe, just maybe, we should stop spending ourselves into oblivion fighting stupid, needless wars and restore tax levels to where they were previously. Ya know- PAY OUR BILLS for a change.

    Just a thought from your local godless, communist, gay, Marx-loving "librool". :rolleyes:
     
  15. Teh Don Ditty macrumors G4

    Teh Don Ditty

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    #15
    Can somebody tell me what the tax rate was for the wealthy during the 40s, 50s and 60s? I mean we had to build the interstate system somehow.
     
  16. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

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    #16
    I think at one point it was 90%.
     
  17. iShater macrumors 604

    iShater

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    I agree. We are so hung up on the price of gas and complaining about it that we fail to see why those taxes are there. I think we missed a golden opportunity after gas hit over $4 in most states. When prices started going down, we should have pushed for some gas tax increases.
     
  18. Teh Don Ditty macrumors G4

    Teh Don Ditty

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    #18
    If that's the case, WTF. I mean that solves some problems now doesn't it.
     
  19. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

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    I wish I was as confident as you, that such increases would actually find their way to the road-bed.

    Up here, in Ontari-ari-ari-o, it all goes to general revenue, where still more beaurocrats decide how the money will be spent.

    The same thing happened with our old Lottario, which was used strictly for funding health care and hospitals. It made too much money, and "their" eyes got very big. Into general revenue it went, where even more beaurocrats decide how that money will be spent.

    Any government protestations to the contrary are just pure bull-*****.
     
  20. iShater macrumors 604

    iShater

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    #20
    I recall that both Federal and State gas taxes go to a specific fund. Should look more into that.
     
  21. Queso macrumors G4

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    #21
    Receipts from our Lottery were originally supposed to be ring-fenced for five different "good causes", which were basically investment in sports, the arts, charities etc. The previous Labour government decided to dip into it though, as they classed health spending and education as "good causes" leaving more money in the public purse for their massive expenses claims :rolleyes:

    The new bunch have pledged that they will return the definition of "good causes" back to what it was before Call-Me-Tony and co. got their hands on it. Of course I'll only believe it when it happens.
     
  22. quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    #22
    And Republicans complain that they are paying 50% today.....
     
  23. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #23
    I share your mistrust.

    They do not like allowing us to vote with our dollars, even if they are for a lottery.

    It's un-bureaucratic. ;)
     
  24. OutThere thread starter macrumors 603

    OutThere

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    #24
    The highest federal bracket is 35%


    And I definitely agree with higher gas taxes, I think that's certainly a straightforward way to generate highway money and make people think twice about the way they use their cars.
     
  25. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #25
    leekohler, "bringing the boys home" would save us maybe a couple of hundred billion bucks a year. The deficit is $1.5 trillion, mas o menos. Add up what we spend on SS, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid and interest on the national debt: Then compare that to the $2.1 trillion in federal revenue.

    Too much social spending. We can't afford it and haven't been able to for quite a while. And it's gonna get a whole bunch worse.

    An increase in the transportation fuel tax, if truly dedicated to road work, would be a good thing. But, who can trust the Congress? After all, once upon a time, the FICA money went into a trust fund--until what, 1966?

    Dunno where the money will come from for improvements in the many ancient water systems. Read some about the history of NYC on their water system and compare costs then vs. costs now. Then start thinking about the problems in all the older cities...

    Scary.
     

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