U.S. infrastructure: Addressing the needs

  • Article by: MYLES SPICER
  • Updated: June 19, 2013 - 7:47 PM

Five new steel gates will be installed this summer on the Coon Rapids side of the dam over the Mississippi River, and another four next summer on the other side.

Photo: David Joles, djoles@startribune.com

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The American Society of Civil Engineers 2013 report card on America’s infrastructure says it succinctly. The grade the ASCE gives for our deteriorating roads, dams, bridges, water and sewer systems, aviation, and other infrastructure components is a resounding … “D.” That means the facilities studied are in poor shape, and worse, that they place many Americans at risk.

Fortunately, there is a way to mitigate this condition — without even raising taxes. What’s more, we could create a substantial number of new jobs for a wide variety of trades and skills.

First, some brief notes on what needs to be done to get our country on the road to improvement, along with some cost figures:

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There are 84,000 dams in the country, with an average age of 52 years. Fourteen thousand are classified as “high hazard,” and to begin repair, an estimated $21 billion will be needed over the next several years for remediation.

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There are an estimated 240,000 drinking-water pipe breaks each year. Clearly, over time, all the pipes will have to be replaced — but the progress now is way too slow, and the deterioration is not being addressed.

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One in four Americans live within three miles of some hazardous-waste site — that is not now being cleaned up. The grade for this item is the same “D.” Solid waste, however, does get a “B” with the increase in recycling.

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Again, a “D” for the 100,000 miles of levees that must be kept in repair. They prevented an estimated $140 million in damage last year, a solid investment.

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Another “D,” and a serious one. An estimated $298 billion will be needed over the next 20 years to keep our pipes, plants and equipment safe and effective.

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