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Friday, September 10, 2010

Our crumbling infrastructure

As part of his new economic package President Obama has proposed setting up an infrastructure bank that could reform the way the federal government spends money for transportation projects and upgrading bridges, rail transit and airport runways. The U.S. has fallen behind the rest of the developed world in many of these areas. Localized "pork" projects have received the lion's share of such funding without any coherent overall plan.

Instead of funneling infrastructure money to those states and districts represented by members of Congress with the most political clout, this plan would create a panel of experts to approve projects on the basis of merit. Experts say this would spur innovation and provide the biggest bang for the buck. It would put money where it makes the most economic sense, not where political influence dictates.

Republicans,predicatbly came out in force to condemn the idea.

In a somewhat related story a gas pipe explosion in a San Francisco suburb yesterday killed at least 4 people, critically injured another 7 and destroyed 37 houses. The gas pipe that exploded was installed in 1948 and has not been upgraded since then. There are almost 300,000 miles of gas pipelines in the U.S. and 60% of them are over 40 years old and lack anti-corrosion coatings that are in current use. In the past two decades there have been almost 3,000 serious gas pipeline incidents resulting in 323 fatalities.

While gas lines are owned and operated by private companies thev same benign neglect is endemic in government owned and run systems. The political will to do something about it is virtually nonexistent.

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