America’s infrastructure is spread far and wide, without enough people to pay for it

As readers of UrbanCincy know, America has put off paying its infrastructure bills for some time and now has an increasingly terrible standard of roads, bridges, sewers, pipes, transit and energy. But what can or should communities throughout America do? They have infrastructure spread far and wide to support far-flung suburbs that defined The American Dream through much of the 20th century. While those early generations were able to sit back and enjoy the new suburbs, the bills of replacing this infrastructure are now coming due…and the communities are not densely populated enough to be able to properly fund the maintenance. More from NextCity:

Earlier this year, when the American Society of Civil Engineers released its quadrennial report card on the nation’s infrastructure, it gave a D to drinking water. The report estimated that there are 1 million miles of water mains in the country, some dating back to the mid-19th century and many in dire shape…Unlike bridges, roads or many other types of infrastructure, the pipes that carry our water are underground and out of sight. It’s only when they break — which, according to the ASCE, happens about 240,000 times each year — that people become aware of the problem.

“The top concern is our aging infrastructure and how we’re going to go about ensuring it’ll be around for future generations,” Kail said. “Over the next 25 years, it will cost U.S. communities more than a trillion dollars to repair water infrastructure. And by that I mean pipes in the ground. That’s a challenge for a lot of communities, especially small ones. Rural communities have many miles of pipes and not many people to spread the cost.”

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  • Matt Jacob

    I think the answer is leveraging technologies that weren’t around until recently to manage what we have better and holding the contractors installing and repairing infrastructure accountable for the quality of work that they do. Imagine a CAGIS system that not only locates every pipe of the sewer system (which would reduce surveying and planning costs) but also keeps the information of when each section was last replaced, repaired, or inspected; its age; who did the work; and eventually how long these sections lasted. With this info collected over time, you could use the trends to use your limited dollars wiser. What a third of the leaking water mains were installed by this company? Better not use them again or scrutinize their work more. Or this section of pipe seems to keep breaking every 5 years so let’s reinforce it the next time.

    Similar things could be done with roads: pot hole keep forming in this section so maybe we should fix the road base here instead of just patching it again.

    Information is power and until recently we weren’t capable of retaining and analyzing it all. Now that we are it hasn’t been collected and aggregated.