The U.S. Infrastructure

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MACDRIVE, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. MACDRIVE macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    #1
    I was just wondering after all of the media reports lately about all the roads, bridges and power lines in this country in need of repair . . . I was wondering how much the Iraq war has effected that. Do you guys think that maybe all the billions of dollars going into the Iraq war effort has taken money away from road repair and other repairs to the infrastructure? :confused:
     
  2. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #2
    No, I don't think it's taken money away directly, bushco's desire to privatize the government probably has though. The WOT has probably diverted attention from maintenance issues.

    There's been a continuing effort by a lot of local communities to spend lavishly on signature projects as opposed to maintaining what we already have.

    Where I live, the city spent a few million on renovating the plaza downtown. It's beautiful but the streets all around it are potholed and there's no money to fix them.

    Rather than look at the whitehouse, no matter what party is in charge, you'd do better to look at local and state governments if you want to find the guilty parties.
     
  3. MACDRIVE thread starter macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    #3
    I have all the pot hole locations memorised throughout my town; I always know when the opportune time is to avoid them. I have seriously given some thought into going to Home Depot and buying myself a bag of asphalt patch and a tamper and going out and doing my own road repair; however, I can imagine the police hauling me in for the disruption of traffic flow. :(
     
  4. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #4
    As Ugg said, not directly, but there will be far less money available to disperse to local gov for the next administration(s), no matter how desperately needed.
     
  5. MACDRIVE thread starter macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    #5
    I just thought it was a coincidence that we're 4 years into a war with helicopters crashing everyday and local governments aren't getting money from the feds for road repair.
     
  6. juanm macrumors 65816

    juanm

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    #6
    How much does a regular (5,56mm or 7,62mm) bullet cost?
     
  7. ErikCLDR macrumors 68000

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    #7
    I don't think it would have any effect. They would probably think "oh, it could use a repair, but that would cost too much money", so they put it off. Kind of like Katrina and the levies.

    I have to go over a bridge to get to my house. It crosses over this gorge and maybe 10 years ago a school bus crashed through the guardrail (it didn't fall off thankfully). So they decided to widen the bridge... now you can get 1.5 cars across the "2 lane" (1 lane each way) bridge. People that don't live around here don't realize 2 cars cannot safely get across at the same time. Its going to cause an accident someday. I already know people that have scraped quarter panels, mirrors, and running boards trying to avoid getting hit.
     
  8. SMM macrumors 65816

    SMM

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    #8
    Seattle (actually the metropolitan Puget Sound area) has some of the worst traffic issues in the Nation. I am fortunate to work and live many miles east of the problems.

    Traffic is always a hot political issue here. We have several 'signature' (as Ugg cleverly named them) projects being debated here. All of them are very expensive. We had federal matching money for all of them. Over the past couple years, the feds have pulled support for about half. I do not know if is because of funding the war. It would be pretty easy to find out. The federal budget is part of the public domain.
     
  9. Sobe macrumors 68000

    Sobe

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    #9
    To answer that question properly, you'd have to ask the people who sit on the appropriations committee about the choices they made in terms of what was funded and what was not in the budget.

    Considering that we still have significant budget deficits, I would suspect that the link is anecdotal, but it would be interesting to see how funding had changed since 2001, and also since 2003 to see if any patterns emerge.
     
  10. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #10
    Just guessing, but probably the largest negative impact on the funding for highway maintenance is the declining purchasing power of the dollar. Steel prices and cement prices are around double just a few years back. World demand, partly; energy costs contribute.

    Governments at all levels are scrambling to impose higher fees or find new things to tax. Texas finally figured out how to tax poor people by adding a $10/carton cigarette tax; Congress is talking about adding $6.10 per carton. (Demographics of smokers show that the poor are more likely to smoke. They don't have enough income to tax and don't contribute all that much sales tax, so...)

    And, as a society, we're not real heavy into preventive maintenance. If we were, we'd have a new-car sales rate about half of what it is. And as implied above, "legacy" applies to new and shiny projects, not repairs and maintenance.

    'Rat
     
  11. Swarmlord macrumors 6502a

    Swarmlord

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    #11
    We have enough money for new bridges to nowhere in Alaska though.
     
  12. Sobe macrumors 68000

    Sobe

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    #12
    Yes, Ted Steven's pork is single-handedly responsible for the Minnesota tragedy.

    Glad we got that cleared up.
     
  13. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    #13
    It was pretty bad when I was there, even worse that sometimes there's only one viable way to go back and forth between places. There were a bunch of projects under construction, and being talked about, when I left that were supposed to help, but I somehow doubted they would. The public transportation was a nightmare, and that billion dollar monorail didn't help anything either.

    But right now I'm in Southern California, so don't get me started on traffic and crumbling roads.

    Wow, you must be new here. Considering SL is even more conservative than you are, that's pretty funny. But no, you're right, he's not single-handedly responsible. However, thanks to such projects that have helped to raise our deficits while not fixing the real problems, it was actually a pretty accurate response. As you said, it is pork, and does actually take money away from the budgets that would pay for otherwise needed repairs.

    Unless he was being sarcastic and saying we have plenty of money to go around, which we actually don't anymore.
     
  14. Sobe macrumors 68000

    Sobe

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    #14
    Labels don't interest me much. Conservative, Liberal -- whatever. Either the thoughts and mental droppings pass muster or they don't. Plus that was a total softball =D

    I lived in socal for 7 years. I remember not wanting to stop at traffic lights on surface streets under bridges after earthquakes...not fun. I don't have an answer either -- just too many people and not enough road.
     
  15. MACDRIVE thread starter macrumors 68000

    MACDRIVE

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    #15
    I already have a hard hat; all I need now is one of those bright orange vests with the glow-in-the-dark reflective stripes and a few of those orange cones to set up. I can just see it on the 6:00 o'clock news: "Man arrested for attempting road repair." :cool:
     
  16. mactastic macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #16
    This is primarily a state issue. Federal highway funds do come from on high, and while I think I can safely say that increasing those funds to the levels necessary to provide a robust infrastructure were not high on Bush's priority list, my understanding is that it is the states that make the bulk of the decisions about where that money is spent. Further, the federal money is not everything the state is supposed to budget towards infrastructure repair and maintenance. States have a responsibility to maintain their own roadways.

    But while the issue is not about Bush, it is about conservatism, primarily as it "trickles down" to the state level from the national players.

    A significant source of the problem is the attitude promulgated by the right that tax rates only move in one direction - down. The political atmosphere is such that any attempt to raise infrastructure money through taxes is tantamount to political suicide. And neither party has proven to be terribly adept at reining in profligate spending. However; only one party is advocating that government also be shrunk to the point where it can be drowned in the bathtub. There are consequence to that kind of thought. The national conservative leadership can make that logic work because the feds can run a deficit. Most states cannot. When revenues drop, something has to give. Cuts in programs, tax hikes, bond measures, fee increases whatever. It gives states less options when the consequences of constantly cutting tax rates -- which disproportionately trend towards benefitting the wealthiest among us -- comes due.

    And despite everyone knowing that the good times cannot possibly last forever, we allow our politicians to plan as if they would.

    Now, to be fair, there are also other factors at work here. The costs 'Rat mentions are also a good chunk of the problem. Escalation costs are pretty high right now (another sign of a strong economy, eh?), and projects designed at a certain budget level can easily well exceed that number by the time conception is turned into the repair of concrete and steel. But escalation is not an "unknown unknown". It can (and should) be planned for, even if it is painful.

    Couple those issues with the fact that maintenance and upgrades to existing infrastructure are about as politically unsexy as you can get -- and therefore get little attention from politicians of any stripe, and you have a lethal cocktail for American infrastructure.

    Also, the costs tend to stagger people unfamiliar with the construction world. I hear a lot of "well, my cousin bob had some earthwork done at his house 6 years ago, and it only cost a third of what you're proposing!" To which you reply "Yes, but that wasn't public improvement work, and it was SIX YEARS AGO!" Seriously, this happens all the time. People just can't comprehend how fast construction costs can rise, and they have a hard time understanding just how much more expensive it is to get a surface rated for daily use by tens to hundreds of thousands than it is for a driveway. Sticker shock, writ large.
     
  17. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #17
    Back when I was actually employed, part of my job as a design engineer and cost estimator was to check every quarter for the current pricing as given in the Engineering News Record. In April (IIRC) of 1974, in just one three-month period, the price of cement had risen from $4 per 400-pound barrel to $11. Energy costs, primarily electricity, and primarily due to a jump in the price of natural gas.

    Modernization around the world has been the recent cause of today's higher materials costs. With the current doubling of the prices of steel and cement, it's gonna get worse before it gets better.

    But maintenance would be less of a cost problem had we let the user-tax on motor fuels keep up with other costs. But I assume folks remember the amount of noise from the public at large when a modest increase in the federal tax was proposed a few years back. The Congress as a whole ran for cover, both liberals and conservatives.

    As a society we want stuff; we just don't wanna pay for it.

    'Rat
     
  18. aloofman macrumors 68020

    aloofman

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    #18
    As a nation we've just been underinvesting in infrastructure for a long time. Tax-cutting fetishes are part of the problem, but some of it is just because of bigger spending priorities. Road maintenance is one of those things that creeps up on you when you slack off on it, like a death by a thousand cuts.

    In the 1950s and '60s, California went on a building spree of roads, aqueducts and universities that made it in the envy of the infrastructure world. Since then we've nickle-and-dimed it to barely keep it together. At some point a major disaster (Socal earthquake, Central Valley levee collapse, etc.) will expose just how decrepit it's become, but until then taxpayers prefer not to spend the money on it.

    And when we DO decide to spend money on it, the state just raids transportation funds for something else anyway.
     
  19. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #19
    Desertrat: sure such price increases also have influence but compared to worker costs material costs are most likely irrelevant

    that said the number thrown around on TV on the sum the US has to invest in their infrastructure for bridges and roads to bring it up to the status as planned would be 1-2 billions ... european billions .. which means 1-2 trillion US dollars
     
  20. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #20
    takao, I'm not so sure that I'd agree on the relative increases in costs of labor vs. materials. The workers come from our middle class, generally. Since the 1970s, the buying power of the middle class has declined. That says to me that the cost of materials has gone up at a faster rate than wages.

    Equipment, as well: My 1978 backhoe, new, was $24,500. I just replaced it with a 2001 model with 1,200 hours on it for $41,000. (I sold the '78 model for $5,000.)

    And, yes, for sure, to bring all our roads, bridges, water conveyance systems and suchlike up to snuff and such new additions as to meet future needs, you're talking trillions of dollars.

    Shifting emphasis from past to future, Google for "Trans-Texas Corridor" as to what's proposed. Our present Interstate Highway system is way over-loaded in many areas. It's fifty years old, but those who proposed it were looking way ahead. The Corridor concept is an effort to once again look ahead--albeit somewhat late.

    (Gotta beat a drum for Texas for a moment: We have some of the best highways in the world. The reason is simple. The most important man on a construction job, having the maximum authority, is the inspector or even a junior inspector. If he sees sub-standard work and says, "Tear it out and do it over," that's what's done. He's 100% backed up to the top of the chain. The State Highway Engineer backed up my father, head of the Materials Testing Lab--who backed up all the inspectors out on the jobs. :D )

    'Rat
     
  21. aloofman macrumors 68020

    aloofman

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    #21
    Labor costs matter too, but I wouldn't call material costs irrelevant at all. In the last ten years, with China sucking up a tremendous amount of steel, copper, aluminum, concrete, etc., the prices of all those materials has gone up considerably.

    Another issue in many parts of this country is the real estate boom. The price for widening a highway has become prohibitive in some places. Caltrans' latest plan to finally finish the Long Beach Freeway involves digging a tunnel under a residential area rather than going through it because the land costs too much compared to tunneling!
     
  22. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

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    #22
    true ... but that rising costs aren't unexpected .. local companies dealing with metal around here say it's their least problem

    widening the highways here (only 2-3 lanes) is next to impossible too simply because it would need thousands of contracts to do it

    Desertrat: as long as you don't get the surface asphalt layer redone every 4 years it's not overloaded
     
  23. Dont Hurt Me macrumors 603

    Dont Hurt Me

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    #23
    Just think what we could do with the Trillion $$$ Bush threw away in Iraq? Lets see what did he buy with that trillion? God forbid using it on Bridges ,Highways or Schools. That would be Socialism to BushCo's Republicans but buying bombs and guns even if you loose 1 out of 3 is better.

    Welcome to the Republican Party and what they really stand for.(Nothing but $$$ for the corporations)
     
  24. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #24
    DHM, don't get carried away with "the cost of Iraq". The additive direct costs are for expendables: Fuel, ammo, and some of the maintenance. Probably more money is being spent on the Iraqi infrastructure than on the military--which, of course, is ironic. But the majority of military money gets spent even when there's no shooting going on...

    And before griping about the feds, just take a look at city and state budgets. They're not exactly covered with glory as to infrastructure maintenance allocations. And a lot of our electric systems, water systems and suchlike are special governmental districts or are private.

    'Rat
     
  25. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #25
    There is a reason nation wide the infrastructure of the roads are having problems. In the '50's and '60's nation wide there was a huge boom in road construction. Those bridges where designed for a 50 year life.

    Now lets is we are in 2007 which is around 50 years later. We are paying for our boom to boost that was there to help the economy in the 50's and 60's. Nation wide this is a problem and it was an issue I was reading about years ago but no one seem to really care. Now that we are having things be push farther and now having issues.

    I know for TXDot they where really conserned about it 4 years ago and trying to address it but only so much they could do. They did change their design standards to a 100 year life on all new bridges which yes drives up the cost by quite a bit.
    Rememeber maintain bridges and roads is cheap compared to having to replace them. Our problem now is a lot of our bridges are reaching the limit of their life and are in need of replacement.
     

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