America’s infrastructure is severely outdated

America’s infrastructure is severely outdated

Vermont residents have kayaked through the swirling water streams that have dominated the streets in recent days. Heavy rainfall in a short time caused severe flooding in the state in the northeastern United States. More than a hundred lives had to be saved and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed Washington Post. Only the panic really set in when the Wrightsville Dam threatened to burst.

In the end, the doomsday scenario remained – the dam appears to be off for the time being. But as the waters drop, Vermont’s fragility is exposed. More than half of the 363 dams are rated hazardous or extremely hazardous, according to the US Powers Inventory, USA Today news channel reports. This means that if they are broken there could potentially be fatalities.

The poor condition of the dams is part of a larger problem: the quality of much of the infrastructure is appalling. The United States is notorious for its late maintenance. The number of torn buildings, smashed roads and outdated bridges is overwhelming. Several chiefs have said they want to do something about it, but little has materialized so far.

Revolutionary investment plan

Current President Joe Biden is also aware of the crumbling infrastructure. He was one of his pioneers when he moved into the White House in 2021: getting rid of that long-standing legacy. He announced a revolutionary investment plan and pledged to invest billions in improving infrastructure. The question is whether this will be sufficient. It is estimated that a multiplier is needed, i.e. several trillion.

Bart Friso’s photo

According to Wijnand Veeneman, an infrastructure expert at TU Delft, this has to do with financing. “In the Netherlands, we expect a well-established and maintained infrastructure, which we pay for as citizens,” he says. “In the US, a lot of the infrastructure is paid for through equity, the so-called bonds. Private parties can buy the bonds for returns paid by the government.”

The result is that the government focuses mainly on short-term investments in new infrastructure and less on maintaining existing infrastructure.

Changing this system is difficult. Feynman notes a profound cultural difference. If a dam breaks in the Netherlands, we assume the government will take care of us. There is no such confidence in the United States. Americans see government as a necessary evil that you should spend as little money as possible on. But a small government can also offer a little, like well-maintained infrastructure.”

long life cost

The scientist also identifies weaknesses in the Dutch system. “Since the 1960s, much hard work has been done on new construction and very little consideration has been taken of long life and the costs associated with it. The challenge for the coming decades is to maintain quality. The focus is shifting from building new roads and railways to maintaining existing facilities.”

Flooding in Vermont evokes memories of Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, which killed six people in the state. For now, there is no relief. Heavy rains are expected on Thursday and Friday. “The danger is far from over,” said Governor Phil Scott. “This is far from over.”

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