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Neo

America's aging infrastructure...

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With the steam pipe explosion in New York City and the terrible tragedy of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, it is evident that the infrastructure in America is aging. Considering America is trillions of dollars in debt and no end to the increasing debt problem is in sight, how will we as a country pay for replacements or repairs to critical pieces of our infrastructure?

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-start rant (my apologies)-

I'm certainly no budget expert, but government at all levels might consider these needs the next time someone in the administration gets the grand idea to GO TO WAR WITHOUT PRETEXT or add another lame useless office or position on the government payroll. We're a country with our priorities way out of whack. If we spent a quarter of what we spent on Defense this year on education we would more than double the education budget ( the defense budget is more than 10 times the education budget).

I don't want to argue the point of having a well funded military - I do think that it's important - but we can't seem to get around being extremists on the matter... after all, look what's NOT getting paid for as a result. It's hypocritical for fiscal conservatives to fight funding for aging urban infrastructure while championing brand new infrastructure in suburban areas and all the while maintaining a budget in the red because they like blowing things up abroad. If they want to drop the "we can't have everything we want line, they need start living it themselves" and realize that educating and preparing our children in the classroom against religious extremism and terrorism is a much better use of money than waiting 15 years to send them to die without a clear cause.

-end of rant-

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how will we as a country pay for replacements or repairs to critical pieces of our infrastructure?

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It is my understanding that the bridge that collapsed was not old at all and was in fact four years old and was in the middle of some upgrade construction. If you will look at most major disasters to infrastructure you will find that it was due to either poor engineering, poor maintenance, or natural disasters, not age itself.

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Actually concrete and steel structures if built and engineered right will last for probably a very very long time.

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I was incorrect in my assertion of the bridge's age. It was built in 1967.

I do still contend that the problem with our infratstructure is either design or maintenance, not age.

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I think the way we build new infrastructure to support sprawl is much more of a concern than aging infrastructure.

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True the I-35 bridge was relatively new. But I think it highlights the fact that we are putting very little money into maintenance and upkeep. Yes, concrete structures could last a very long time - if they are taken care of. We will see what he ultimate cause of the collapse is, but I have a feeling it will be a combination of many factors. In any case, even if the primary cause is engineering error, we still have to recognize the fact that we are simply not maintaining things as we should.

In fact I do think military and political issues are the main factor here. We are spending so much effort on our offense and exerting political will outside our borders, and so much effort trying to battle government influence internally, that the result is our defense, i.e. our infrastructure, is literally crumbling around us. At the risk of turning this political, the fact that we have focused so much into the Iraq war and war on terror, the terrorists are in fact winning, because we are now crumbling from withing. The damage done by collapses, poor emergency planning for natural disasters, and problems caused form old infrastructure failing (i.e. our water and electricity), is far, far worse than any damage the terrorists can do themselves. The more we ignore that part of our defense, the more it is going to consume all our attention later on.

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A year or so ago Congress passed a major transportation bill. It's a start, but it will take time to see that new and improved infrastructure. Money has to be allocated from the federal government, which means states with more political power will get an enormous share of the pie and they'll get it before anyone else.

Don't hold your breath. It's not all the federal government's fault, and it's not all because of terrorism or the war on terrorism. I just knew that there would be those types that will blame the collapse of a 40 year old bridge on George Bush. I don't like the guy either, but blaming this and everything else on the federal government is a stretch. The same types blamed the Levee collapse in New Orleans on the White House when engineers have been warning the state for 40 years that New Orleans is in danger. The city that care forgot never worried about the levees until Katrina.

There was a massive infrastructure building boom in the 1920s and 1930s that is reaching or exceeding it's useful life. Our generation is going to have to take responsibility to rebuild.

The people to blame is ourselves. We use bridges, sewer systems, highways, and everything else on a daily basis and we never care about how they are funded until something goes wrong.

Most of those structures that need attention right now are state funded highways and bridges. As a country, we are all too shortsighted to see the need for new dams, bridges, highways, cleaner sewer systems etc. until they fail or break. We also can't understand that adding capcity or rebuilding a superstructure takes years to plan and years to build.

We all need to be more open to paying for our infrastructure and making sure those taxdollars go where it's needed.

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In the case of bridges and major roadways the solution is to put tolls on major roadways and use that money for maintenance.

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I think the way we build new infrastructure to support sprawl is much more of a concern than aging infrastructure.

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In the case of bridges and major roadways the solution is to put tolls on major roadways and use that money for maintenance.

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Actually, I fear that if anything that course might lead to even more sprawl and a decline in our urban areas. People move to the suburbs for a reason. In many cases they simply work in the city because that is where the jobs are. but if it becomes too costly for people to commute to the cities, then they simply either won't choose those jobs, or more likely will demand more pay. That in turn raises business expenses, and business moves out of the city.

The fundamental problem is that the public really has little control over where money is spent, and there are so many forces at work - both benign as well as self-serving - that are trying to paint any and all taxes as evil. One way or the other the money will be spent - before the tragedy happens, cleaning up after the tragedy happens, or personally to lessen the impact that the tragedy has on our life. I think the problems that need to be addressed are giving more control to the people over where those funds are spent and allocated, reducing the overhead costs of operations - the business of running a business, and focusing the money more on public needs, and less on private interests in hope that some of those public needs might then be met with private money. And I think we need a major rethink in where we are spending our tax dollars.

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That just seems completely counterintuitive. It hinges entirely on the assumption that people will seek great distances from the city no matter what the cost, which I severely doubt you can demonstrate.

What currently happens is there is no negative feedback resulting from moving out of the city. You live in the city, you pay for the roads. You live out of the city, you pay for the roads. With tolls, you stop paying for the roads inside the city. Suddenly roads become a scarce resource, that is subject to the supply/demand curve. The more people live and work outside the city, the more they have to pay for roads, so there's an incentive to cut down on driving. There's an incentive to ride mass transit. Instead of paying for the roads AND the mass transit if you use it, you're just paying for whichever you use.

Moving way out to the boondocks would not be a good move for businesses, since it would make them even more dependent on the highways for transportation, where there are no alternatives.

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It's not just about costs. It's about how people want to live their lives. A lot of people aren't all that keen on living on top of one another. Many people become depressed when you are surrounded by concrete all the time and have no personal space. Heck, I am one of them - I can't spend all my time deep in the city. The hecticness of it is stressful, the lack of any peaceful spot that you can be by yourself and control yourself is troubling. And while for some people driving is a major hassle, it is much easier to be able to go where you want, when you want, and bring what you need with you. Businesses too can find cheaper rent and a more controlled environment if they relocate to an office park outside the city. Not only do they have cheaper rents and lower infrastructure cots, they have more control over their building and can stand out more. And they don't have to pay people more to compensate them for commuting or parking costs. There are some good aspects to suburbs.

As far as tools and resources go, just because you live in the city doesn't mean you don't have to deal with infrastructure. In fact this bridge was only blocks away from downtown. This isn't just roads, either - it's water, sewer, electricity, emergency services, etc. Many of these are even worse in inner cities. Suburbs often have simpler infrastructures - they don't have the density and demand to have to build robust systems. Many more rural areas don't use reservoirs, instead using town wells, or even private wells.

In either case, though, the cost doesn't change. Whether it's a bridge to support a train or a truck, it's still a bridge. Roads or rail lines, they still need to be built and maintained. Those costs don't change based on how you pay for them. So if you set it up for a pay on usage (such as a toll or fare), you still have to come up with as much money as you do if you do a pay by tax method. It simply changes if you pay up front or later.

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There is something to be said for misplaced priorities. In Minneapolis they are building a $1.1b stadium for the Twins and another for the Vikings, using public money. There is certainly no lack of money.

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The same types blamed the Levee collapse in New Orleans on the White House when engineers have been warning the state for 40 years that New Orleans is in danger. The city that care forgot never worried about the levees until Katrina.

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There is something to be said for misplaced priorities. In Minneapolis they are building a $1.1b stadium for the Twins and another for the Vikings, using public money. There is certainly no lack of money.

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Moonshield you failed to mention that last November Minnesotans voted yes on an amendment to the state constitution that's expected to add an extra $300 million a year into transportation projects. The amendment will be phased in over the next five years until 2011. It will direct around $300 million in new money toward improving roads and public transit - 40 percent of the money would be used for mass transit, with no more than 60 percent for roads and bridges.

You also failed to mention that the public is paying for the Hiawatha light rail line, the new Guthrie Theater, the new downtown library, the new addition to the Walker Art Center, etc... They will also be paying for projects like the North Star commuter line, the Central Corridor light rail line, the new MN Planetarium & Space Discovery Center, and yes, they will be paying for the majority of the new Twins stadium. All these amenities are what's keeping the Twin Cities area far ahead of most cities throughout the country. In other words, I think most Minnesotans have their priorities straight.

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Would we be having this discussion if the bridge hand't collapsed. Things like this happen all the time and we can't always be there to stop disasters before they happen. One of the reasons some infrastucture is outdated is because people want to build huge mass transit systems instead of repairing, widening, and building new roads.

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Would we be having this discussion if the bridge hand't collapsed. Things like this happen all the time and we can't always be there to stop disasters before they happen. One of the reasons some infrastucture is outdated is because people want to build huge mass transit systems instead of repairing, widening, and building new roads.

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NC has ordered an immediate report of all substandard bridges. But alas, unless the media keeps this in everyone's mind I doubt much will come of it. Of the 20 'top' substandard bridges in NC, 5 are in the county I live in carrying between 250-500K cars per week. All but one is scheduled for complete replacement by 2013.

It's a shame though that politicians gamble with their constituents lives by trying to save money and 'eek' more time out of obsolete and deficient infrastructure.

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Instead of spending so much money on new roads and widening existing ones, I would much rather see the money spent on rapid intracity and intercity transit. Why do we continue to encourage suburban sprawl by building new roads instead of promoting public transportation?

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Instead of spending so much money on new roads and widening existing ones, I would much rather see the money spent on rapid intracity and intercity transit. Why do we continue to encourage suburban sprawl by building new roads instead of promoting public transportation?

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