On a recent train trip to Boston, my own observation indicated that our infrastructure on bridges is in need of repair - like, now!
From Pittsburgh to Altoona, to Harrisburg to Philadelphia, to New York and all through Connecticut, Rhode Island and into Massachusetts, I saw the same decay.
I couldn't help notice that most bridges and tunnels the train went under, over or through - plus most power line towers - were corroded with a thick coating of rust. The concrete also was in much decay, like a dentist's paradise. I couldn't help wonder how many more trains, trucks, cars and buses these bridges could take until they collapse.
We hear so much about our infrastructure as of late and the role our stimulus package will play in doing these awesome repairs. When will this all happen? Why has it taken so long to even think of all these costly repairs?
On Aug. 1, 2007, as you may recall, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi, killing 13 people. They say the collapse was due to a flaw in design. The bridge lasted more than 40 years. There was a metal plate that was much too thin to serve as a junction of several girders.
Bridges usually are built to last some 50 years, and the average bridge in the U.S. is 43 years old. Of the 600,905 bridges that span across our country, as of December 2008, 72,868, or 12.1 percent, were categorized as structurally deficient, and 89,024 or 14.8 percent, were categorized as simply obsolete.
One important stat to mention is that of the more than 3 trillion vehicle miles of travel over bridges each year, 223 billion miles come from trucks.
Another important aspect of our infrastructure is our drinking water. Facts say that America's drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion just to replace aging facilities that truly are at the end of their lives. The demand for drinking water will increase drastically in the next 20 years.
Leaking pipes lose an estimated 7 billion gallons of clean drinking water daily. Ohio's drinking water infrastructure alone needs an investment of $9.68 billion over the next 20 years.
In our own state of Ohio, 27 percent of Ohio's bridges are structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. Twenty-five percent of Ohio's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 45 percent of Ohio's urban highways are congested.
Congestion on the highways is an increasing problem throughout our country, as I witnessed just last week returning from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. What a mess! Congestion has become a challenge on our roadways and worsening.
Do you realize that Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year just stuck in traffic? This, my friends, also has a cost of $78.2 billion a year just in wasted time and fuel costs, which averages out to $710 per happy motorist.
Due to the results of congestion, total fuel waste is out of control, increasing by the billions of dollars every year.
We also know that poor road conditions can lead to excessive wear and tear on your favorite jalopy. The percentage of roads with good ride quality, believe it or not, is said to be improving. However, acceptable ride quality has declined with the lowest acceptable ride quality on urbanized roads, as expected. Roadway conditions are reportedly a big factor in about 1/3 of traffic fatalities.
There are many, many challenges we face in bringing about a sudden change in infrastructure madness that includes many other items besides bridges, roads and water supply. I guess it all comes down to adequately investing in all those before mentioned items. If not, there could be further deteriorations and bad accidents in the near future.
You see, an overstressed infrastructure resilience can last only so long.
I have witnessed the decaying bridges, tunnels and roads, and power towers, and have worried about our drinking water dilemma. I have also pulled my last shock of hair out during hours of highway congestion. I keep wondering why nothing has been done in the past to keep up with this true emergency.
Perhaps our leaders never have thought of it or witnessed it or been affected by it.