Critical Infrastructure in Decay - A Call to Action
We all watched in awe at the crumbling of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis Wednesday night. At this point, five people are known dead, as many as 8 people are missing, and 27 of the 98 people injured are still hospitalized (5 in critical and 5 in serious condition). It has also been reported that the bridge was deemed in need of repair as long ago as 1990.
Politicizing the issue, or pointing fingers of blame as many are now doing, does nothing to solve the very real problem that the Nation’s infrastructure is in a horrible state of disrepair. The cost to reconstruct this single bridge is estimated as high as $500 million, and that number is dwarfed by the estimated costs of repairing the country’s roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure.
● There are 756 steel-deck truss bridges nationwide (similar to the I-35 bridge that collapsed).
● More than 70,000 bridges across the country are rated as "structurally deficient."
● Of the 104,348 heavily used structures, only 4,227, or 4 percent, scored below 50, or worse than the I-35W bridge.
● The Federal Highway Administration estimated in 2002 that the backlog of bridge repairs would cost $55 billion.
According to another source, about one-quarter of America’s 577,000 bridges were rated deficient in 2004.
In the federal government's rating system, any bridge that scores less than 80 – on a scale of 1 to 100 – is in need of rehabilitation. A bridge scoring below 50 should undergo reconstruction under federal guidelines. In 2004, 26.7 percent of US bridges, urban and rural, were rated deficient, down from 27.5 percent in 2002, according to the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure assessed the condition and capacity of our nation's public works with an overall grade of D. ASCE estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to bring the nation's infrastructure to good condition. (See entire report)
On June 20th the Partnership for a Secure America called for the equivalent of a new Energy Manhattan Project:
"We must reduce our vulnerability to high oil prices and supply disruptions, and address the dangers of climate change resulting from energy-related greenhouse gas emissions."Clearly, while not minimizing the importance of developing means to unshackle this country from the Middle Eastern stranglehold of oil, fixing the country’s infrastructure needs to also become a priority (a "Manhattan Project" for our critical infrastructure). We don’t need terrorists to blow up bridges (“soft targets”) if they fall down on their own.