In the 2013 American Society of Bridge Engineers (ASCE) report card on American Infrastructure rated our nation’s bridges a C+ and said “Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient [my bolding], while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that to eliminate the nation’s bridge deficient backlog by 2028, we would need to invest $20.5 billion annually, while only $12.8 billion is being spent currently. The challenge for federal, state, and local governments is to increase bridge investments by $8 billion annually to address the identified $76 billion in needs for deficient bridges across the United States.”
One in nine bridges are deficient. 200 million passengers a day at risk.
In July a tragic accident in Spain killed 80 passengers on a train that took a curve at 190 kph that was rated for just 50 kph. Six months later the very same thing happened in Yonkers when a train derailed while traveling at 82 mph on a curve designed to be taken at 30 mph. Tragically there were four more victims in this accident.
The technology was available to automatically slow these trains and take control from the human drivers but the investment in the technology was not made despite the real risks.
In the 12 months after the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School 179 more children under the age of 12 died from gunshots in the USA. What gun controls we had before Sandy Hook are now more relaxed: not more stringent.
The State of the Union Address is this evening. It is when we hope to hear our leaders set the vision for our society. We get to put aside political differences and decide what is in the best interest of our society and do the right long-term things even though the short-term may be painful.
We need to build metaphorical bridges in our polarized societies. We need leaders who can deliver hard truths and not be more afraid of losing their job than they are of the consequences of their truths. We need the mega-rich to volunteer to lead the re-investment in our infrastructure rather than to concentrate on being “tax-efficient”. We need the military to be realistic and comprehensive about our defense but nothing more than that. We need our food producers to keep us safe from harm even at the expense of profits. We need our energy providers to deliver power that won’t harm our future on the planet. We need everyone to listen to experts and not ridicule them. We need pundits to place more weight on facts than they do on the opinions of other pundits. We need to trust the government to hold our data sacred and the government needs to hold our data sacred.
We all know what is wrong with our world: we just differ in the degree to which we think it matters and the order we’d like to see them fixed. If we each make one decision a day that is in the interest of others we can make this a better world … and maybe get some real (and metaphorical) bridges fixed.