Infrastructure decline…cause?

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    Looking for an answer to a fairly basic question: When did it become ok for the richest, most powerful nation on the planet to let its shared infrastructure fall apart? Bridges, smart transportation systems, power grid, green energy, etc., etc.

    Did it start with the defunding of the states coffers via the anti-tax Proposition – like Prop 13 in CA – and carried forward via the Tim Eyemans of the world?

    It would seem that we’ve lost that as a priority or even an assumption that we’d have infrastructure that’s top flight. We’re not even close anymore and it surely has negative economic impacts. How did we get here? And just as importantly, how do we get it back? Or are we just too wrapped up in the era of “me” to care about the shared commons?



    short term thinking got us here

    do you know that our bridges were once engineered to withstand double the projected load?

    now engineering loads factor in an acceptable rate of failure…

    bridge maintenance doesn’t seem important

    until it collapses when you cross it

    then it becomes a common concern.

    there is no acceptable failure rate if you are on the bridge when it collapses



    OK, so when did that become the norm and why?

    It must have happened after the Apollo program (where we engineered things to as high a level as we knew how) and the space shuttles (where we were apparently much more cost conscious?).

    Was it BECAUSE cost was no object on Apollo?

    Short-termitis must have taken hold for a reason??



    do you remember tricky Dick?

    who was followed by the acting president who is revered by people not old enough to have lived through the mess he made?

    and then there were those state’s rights guys elder and younger…

    those were very busy administrations…

    and lets not forget the educators in texas

    who taught us all to think how much profit can be made how quickly is the most important economic question

    i know you deserve a more specific answer than that wake..

    but i am not up to doing the research thing today.

    with any luck, someone else will.



    wakeflood, thanks for this question.

    I see that Jo has thrown you slightly off track with her “no acceptable failure rate” statement, which merely demonstrates that she does not think like an engineer. (No offense, Jo.)

    There’s no problem with current engineering design standards in this country. None. The problem is, as you implied in your first post, that we’re not replacing infrastructure in a timely way.

    So, again . . . WHY aren’t we replacing?

    Although the question might seem “basic” it’s actually about as unbasic as they come. In fact, there are many contributing factors to the infrastructure problem, including:

    ► Increase in costs (labor, insurance, financing)

    ► Shortfall of revenue

    ► Changed spending priorities

    ► “Don’t fix it til it’s broke” syndrome


    –each of which could lead you down a different rabbit hole.

    The good news is that bridges don’t all fall down at once, and (usually) they don’t fall down without some kind of warning.



    That video gets me every time I see it. It amazes me how flexible asphalt is…till it isn’t.



    DBP…would you feel the same way if you were on the bridge when it collapses…

    oh, and…when did you get your engineering degree? You do have one, don’t you?

    or are you arguing for arguing’s sake?



    DBP, yeah, I know the answer isn’t about engineering, I work for a civil engineering company and there’s tons of good engineering going into the designs.

    I think your list includes the most likely suspects, but I want to add another related one.

    Reduced faith in government.

    I think the constant tearing down by the “conservatives” over the last 40yrs. has taken its toll. No more civics classes. No grand projects that can serve us all. Making self-governance a joke. Example #1: Ronnie “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” Reagan.

    Pound that kind of stuff into people’s brains long enough and it has to have some impact. Right?


    Genesee Hill

    The U.S. military infrastructure ain’t too shabby compared to other countries.



    Yes, that seemed to be the only element of gov’t that the conservatives deem “functional”. Although I don’t know how it WOULDN’T be given the resources spent to get it there??? You know, like 3/4 Trillion a year, not counting off-the-books spending on sh*t we don’t get to know about.

    Now, if we can only ween that $ out of the bloated defense budget and put it to productive use…



    One theory is the sexual revolution caused our infrastructure problems. Government spending has shifted from infrastructure to the social costs associated with the breakdown of the family – poverty, crime, etc.



    That is awesome!! You should write for the Daily Show, Skeeter!



    Another theory is that Godzilla caused our infrastructure problems. Gov’t spending has shifted from infrastructure to the black ops anti-Godzilla costs that fund the programs to protect us from Godzilla’s wrath. Equally credible and just as well sourced.



    Outstanding. Or perhaps, a sexually promiscuous Godzilla?? Now THAT’S an STD.



    Correlation does not equal causation.



    True, but I heard from a friend in black ops that Seal Team 6 is in training for a Godzilla strike at his heavily-secured safe house, rumored to be in Malawi.

    Disinformation? You tell me.



    The cause: Simple Shortermitis; easy to fix but difficult to innoculate. If we had built the freeways and bridges with 10-20 year lifespans, it would be obvious that it was deteriorating in the life of those who voted for it and there would be pressure for maintenance.

    Instead we went with 40-50 year lifespans, far outliving those who designed it. Because these stay around so long the thought is: “Its been here forever, why now?” Look at the Viaduct, it is well past it’s design date but we keep pushing it.

    I blame both parties in Seattle: Demos for ignoring it until it is an emergency and Repubs for failing to point it out and push for repairs/maintenance. Waiting for a bridge to fall down to do repairs is not an excuse, it is an indictment.



    My point is that Republicans are conservative and therefore should support what has already been done.



    Well JD, I’m not so sure you can extrapolate your theory to cover virtually every other city/state in the union. This isn’t a local phenomenon. It’s national.

    And it should be noted that NOTICING the issue isn’t new either (studies have been out for 15+ yrs.)and it AIN’T just bridges fer goodness sake. Our electrical grid is an antiquated cluster, our internet infrastructure is about as good as most 2nd tier countries, etc., etc.

    The simple fact is, we do everything related to infrastructure piecemeal and on an emergency only basis. We haven’t done a federally coordinated major infrastructure project since the Interstate Hwy System in the 50’s/60’s.

    Here’s a possible causal relationship: Substantially reduced Federal matching funds. Remember those? Gee, I think they helped fund TONS of state-level projects to the tune of 50%, sometimes more. That must have become an unpopular place to put federal funding. Wiser folks chose the B-1 bomber, and Missle Defense, etc…



    Aren’t there increased social costs associated with crime and poverty?

    Lets just look at the number of people in prison.

    From 1920 to 2006, the U.S. polulation increased 2.8 times. In the same period, the number in prison increased 20 times.

    Okay, okay, I have no source that says the sexual revolution caused more people to be in prison. I just made that up. However, it is a fact that more people *are* in prison, whatever the cause.

    Any amount spent on incarcerating criminals cannot be spent on infrastructure.

    Same thing with poverty.

    We have far, far, more poverty now than we’ve ever had before. None of us will agree on what caused the increased poverty. But it is increased. And poverty costs the government a lot of money.

    The original question on this forum was why our infrastructure is in poor shape. I don’t think it is a lack of good engineers. I think we just spend our money differently now as compared with, say 1920.

    I agree my post (#11) was silly. I don’t know what caused all the crime and poverty. Certainly a combination of things. But we’re paying for it now. And every dollar we spend on poverty and crime and other social ills is a dollar we can’t spend on a new bridge.



    I agree with DBP’s post #5. Specifically, I think that “changed spending priorities” is the biggest reason for lack of infrastructure spending. The powers that be think that our money is better spent on other things.

    I’d love to see a study that compares total fed and state gov’t expenditures (as a percentage of GDP) comparing 1920 (or 1930 or 1940) to 2006 with the following categories:

    1. infrastructure

    2. education

    3. social programs

    4. foreign aid

    5. crime prevention and enforcement

    6. military

    7. corporate welfare

    8. Whatever else I’m missing…

    Does anyone know if such a study or comparison exists?



    Skeeter, as a follow up to your point, please go and look up how many prisons in this country are run by for profit corporations.

    Then, consider what that implies with regard to our rate of incarceration (which, indeed, is very high, among the highest if not the highest in the world) and what sorts of things are considered crimes.

    As an added bonus, look up under what aegis many of our largest-scale national infrastructure projects were constructed. (Hint: it has to do with poverty.)



    You’re almost there, skeets! Just follow your logic and look at data from as many unbiased sources as you can and you’ll end up reaching the conclusion that social engineering has been happening on a massive scale in this country, but it AIN’T the kind you probably think.

    I’m not saying that poverty or crime has a causal relationship with infrastructure but your core question of why DOES the richest country in the world have so much poverty IS something to sort out. Economic/social mobility is literally a fraction of what it was in this country decades ago. The reasons aren’t THAT hard to find – if you’re open to answers that might not coincide with your current world view.



    Last post for me tonight. Sorry, this thread really got me thinking.

    Wakeflood makes a good point about military spending. I don’t think our soldier head count is high in comparison to past decades. But we’re spending a fortune on new technologies. Next generation fighter jets, missile defense, r&d. These costs are huge.

    A fighter plane (P-51) in WW2 cost $25,000. About the price of 22 new cars in 1942. An F-22 Raptor costs $160M today. About the price of 7,000 new cars in 2012. Maybe that’s where a big chunk of the money is going?



    ‘Xactly, skeets. And keep in mind that nobody else has anything even close to those pieces of hardware in terms of technology. And we don’t have a couple of anything. We have dozens, hundreds of everything. It adds up…

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