Monday, May 18, 2015

The disaster is in the details: A tale of gridlock and crumbling bridges

Last night on 60 Minutes, CBS replayed a story about America's crumbling infrastructure. After years of neglect, insufficient investment in our infrastructure, and political gridlock, we have 70,000 bridges in desperate need of repair or replacement.

There are a lot of people in the United States right now who think the country is falling apart, and at least in one respect they're correct. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out-of-date, and there are many miles of railroad track lacking safety technology that might have prevented last week's derailment of an Amtrak commuter train outside of Philadelphia.

And that's an assessment over and above the fact that we do not invest in new forms of rapid transit.

The situation is the result of decades of neglect. As we reported last fall, none of this is really in dispute. Business leaders, labor unions, governors, mayors, congressmen and presidents have all complained about a lack of funding for years, but aside from a one-time cash infusion from the stimulus program, nothing much has changed. There is still no consensus on how to solve the problem or where to get the massive amounts of money needed to fix it, just another example of political paralysis in Washington.

Tens of millions of American cross over bridges every day without giving it much thought, unless they hit a pothole. But the infrastructure problem goes much deeper than pavement. It goes to crumbling concrete and corroded steel and the fact that nearly 70,000 bridges in America -- one out of every nine -- is now considered to be structurally deficient.

The story has an embedded video on why infrastructure gets ignored in which "Steve Kroft discusses his 60 Minutes report on America's crumbling infrastructure, which he calls an unsexy topic with high stakes."

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