When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

05 August 2007

Billions for "homeland security"... but how much for homeland infrastructure?

The tragic rush-hour collapse in Minneapolis of the I-35W Bridge over the Mississippi River is again forcing a reexamination of the nation's approach to maintaining and inspecting critical infrastructure.

According to engineers, the nation is spending only about two-thirds as much as it should be to keep dams, levees, highways, and bridges safe. The situation is more urgent now because many such structures were designed 40 or 50 years ago, before Americans were driving weighty SUVs and truckers were lugging tandem loads.

It all adds up to a poor grade: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a D in 2005, the latest report available, after assessing 12 categories of infrastructure ranging from rails and roads to wastewater treatment and dams.

"Bridge collapse spotlights America's deferred maintenance," Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2007

A bridge collapse in Minneapolis. A steam pipe explosion in midtown Manhattan. A catastrophic levee failure in New Orleans...

Homeland Security dollars are being spent in a way that would make any self-respecting drunken sailor blush.

In the meantime, we aren't spending the necessary funds to maintain our roads, bridges, and our power, water and waste treatment infrastructure.

Our old, overloaded, decaying power grid struggles to keep up with demand and is incredibly vulnerable to failure (I *can't believe* that the 2003 Northeast Blackout, which took an enormous swath of the US and part of Canada out of service for up to four days, depending on where you lived, was not a wakeup call.)

Ye gods, what I wouldn't give for a real conservative candidate to step up and make this an issue.

Conservation and responsible stewardship of infrastructure is a bedrock issue, and one that allegedly fiscally responsible adults ought to be mighty damned interested in.

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