America’s D+ Infrastructure

April 9, 2014

by Crane-Station

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a report card based on the A-F grading system, for America’s infrastructure. Infrastructure involves more than the 65,000 US bridges in need of repair, or the potholes that ate Indianapolis. America earned a D+ average across sixteen categories according to eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.

The Infrastructure report card is here. The grades:

Aviation D
Bridges C+
Dams D
Drinking Water D
Energy D+
Hazardous Waste D
Inland Waterways D-
Levees D-
Ports C
Public Parks and Recreation C-
Rail C+
Roads D
Schools D
Solid Waste B-
Transit D
Wastewater D

How are we doing today?

While America spends huge amounts of money on non-emergency or made up issues, like surveillance or hollowing out America or keeping alligators off the football field, the place is falling apart. The D+ average reflects a crisis in America’s infrastructure. But just when you think things cannot get any worse, they do. For example:

Schools received a D grade. One must get a shovel and dig to get this low, but yesterday the Washington Post reports Koch brothers help Kansas lawmakers strip teachers of tenure. Here’s what these egregious horrendous human beings did:

The Kansas legislature just passed legislation that strips teachers of tenure and the right to due process, a move pushed by conservative lawmakers who were forced by a state Supreme Court ruling to provide more funding to poor school districts and wanted to get something out of the deal. After stripping teachers of their tenure, legislators had a brief discussion about jewelry.

So, after screwing teachers and school children, who have no money and no political clout, the discussion that the taxpayers were funding progressed to more important things like personal jewelry. Brought to you by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, that gets an F. Since there is no longer tenure, I can not imagine that a teacher could lose much by explaining how a bill becomes law, and also explaining why 40 children are sharing one schoolbook, and who proposed the bill.

Every two minutes in America, a water pipe breaks. If you own the home on top of the broken pipe, you must pay for the repair, even if the pipes were installed decades before your arrival. Seven trillion gallons of treated drinking water are lost yearly in the US, due to leaking pipes, and leaking pipes can lead to mold and other serious property damage. The customer pays for the chemicals to treat the water, as well as the pumps, pipes and electricity to run the pumps, but there is no note on the water bill that says you are paying for lost water due to failing infrastructure.

Energy’s D+ is notable because my husband and I are one of many residents in an area spanning several states, with a power bill horror story. At first I thought our power bill, which was suddenly higher than God, was a mistake, but then we began asking others, and in many cases the electric bill matches the rent, or exceeds it. While some companies claim “polar vortex,” we believe the residential customer is absorbing the cost of aging structure in the electricity grid.

Bridges earned a C+, with one in nine reported as structurally deficient, carrying more than two hundred million travelers each day. A United States Structurally Deficient Bridges on the National Highway Systems map from the Department of Transportation is here, and things are not looking up. According to an audit released Tuesday in Louisiana, the transportation department couldn’t exactly prove it had inspected 16 percent of the bridges in the state, and several hundred others were late in inspection or deficient in other ways. The pdf audit is here.

Hazardous waste received a D grade. Last week, Mercury News reported that home improvement giant Lowe’s was ordered to pay 18 million in fines for illegal hazardous waste disposal:

OAKLAND — Home improvement giant Lowe’s has been ordered to pay $18 million for illegally disposing hazardous waste, including pesticides, batteries, fluorescent bulbs and other toxic materials, following a civil enforcement action filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court.

Amazing that it’s just Lowe’s. There is an old saying among dumpster divers: “You would not believe what people throw away.” That includes businesses, utilities, and if you are a history buff, there’s Drum Mountain , or even things like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

In news from Hanford, Donna Busche, a safety whistleblower who was fired from Hanford in February, had warned of dangers involving, among other things, vapors that sickened 24 workers in March. Hanford is home to 56 million gallons of the most toxic waste in the US in 177 underground storage tanks, and is known for plutonium production for the WWII ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb in B-Reactor. Last week, the Atomic Heritage Foundation launched a virtual tour of B-Reactor, called Ranger in Your Pocket.

What are your thoughts on the infrastructure report card? Choose one of the sixteen subjects and rant and rave accordingly. There is little way to go but up, but are things improving, or is America’s infrastructure summed in the movie line,

Dean Vernon Wormer: Mr. Blu…Mr. Blutarsky… zero… point… zero.

On a lighter note, the Decorah Eagles have three beautiful chicks. The Live Cam is here.

cross posted at MyFDL/Firedoglake

California Delays High Speed Rail, and also Opposes SF to LA Hyperloop

September 21, 2013

by Crane-Station and cross-posted at Firedoglake/MyFDL on 9-18-2013

After receiving 70 billion dollars in funds approval from the government for a high speed rail track, not one bulldozer or shovel has touched the ground. There is yet another delay, due to some legal hyper-technicality involving the additional land that the new track will take, if you read the mainstream news. In plain English, the delay means that deals are being made, while government contractors lick their chops at the prospect of even more money for nothing.

But then, Elon Musk offered a solution: a San Francisco to Los Angeles hyperloop.

High speed rail seems to be problematic for republican-type folk, because it doesn’t involve Big Fossil Fuels. So when Elon Musk unveiled his new and updated proposal for a hyperloop, an elevated vacuum tube type of train, naturally, they forcefully opposed it. Musk’s hyperloop would get travelers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 35 minutes or so, roughly akin to the time it would take one to travel that distance, if one were to travel at the speed of sound. The technology is not new. China and other countries already have these types of trains.

The bottom line seems to be that while republicans do not care for high speed rail to begin with, they sort of had to choke it down, because it is an issue that is popular with voters. There was little choice but to choke down some infrastructure improvements, lest one not get elected. Having done that, the new plan was to spend 70 billion dollars on an outdated rail system, that would gobble land. That was so that they could have an excuse to say they are building infrastructure that is safe, cleaner and super-fast, while at the same time half-assing it, pocketing money, and insulting the poor and unemployed, over rounds of golf.

Tempers flared when entrepreneur Elon Musk had the temerity to update California Republicans’ half-assed, outdated, not-yet-started and expensive plan that only gave an appearance and nothing more. In a statement titled CA High-Speed Rail Caucus: Republican’s Attempts to Block High Speed Rail Would Derail Safety and Economy, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren bluntly summarized the Ca Republican agenda when she stated:

Republicans are pushing a job killing agenda focused on wasting billions in lost worker productivity and energy consumed tied up in highway and airport congestion—money that could be better used growing our economy.

For anyone who has ever lived in Southern California, improvements to infrastructure and transportation is a substantial improvement over living in a car. Spending most of the time on the roads is a life where one eats, changes clothes, talks to people, and makes major life decisions, all in a car; thirty-five minutes is the amount of time it takes to get out of the driveway, on a good day.

What is interesting about the hyperloop, which other countries rely on, rather than the outdated high-speed rail is, everyone could benefit from it. This is a situation where corrupt and non-corrupt alike could agree: jobs, cleaner environment; infrastructure that is kept in excellent condition.

The California balking and rejection of the hyperloop idea is indicative of how stagnant and broken our system really is.

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