Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Crumbling Infrastructure Watch

This morning, New Jersey commuters trying to get to the Holland Tunnel found themselves navigating a maze of detours and major delays as a key route was shuttered.

The emergency closure was the result of concrete falling from the covered roadway on Route 139 which is one of two major highways leading to the tunnel. Emergency repairs are underway, but the fact is that the roadway needs significant repairs. Replacement of the structure is more than needed as concrete continues to fall away from overhead.

Failing to invest in basic maintenance and upkeep plays a role in this. Heavy traffic pounds on these structures on a daily basis forming cracks that allow water to seep into the structures and begin the process of separating concrete from the reinforcing steel.

The closure in New Jersey is just the latest in a string of infrastructure failures across the state. Water main failures are a common occurrence and one that wastes a key resource and disrupts business in the affected areas. Water utilities and municipalities that manage their own water supplies are also failing to maintain their infrastructure - repairing emergency water main breaks rather than proactively replacing the oldest sections of mains and sewers to upgrade the system.

Heck, Newark has hundreds of fire hydrants that are inoperable because they lack sufficient water pressure or are otherwise damaged in some fashion. That affects public safety and yet there's an insufficient budget to address the concerns.

Far too many people want to see low taxes but ignore that the costs for maintaining an aging infrastructure have grown exponentially requires a growing budget to address those needs.

In New York City, the mayoral race has given little more than lip service to infrastructure and mass transit, which are keys to economic development and community vitality. The City has failed to restore funding to the MTA to help fund capital construction programs and has forced the agency to borrow to make ends meet. That has to change, or else the agency will find itself managing a system that increasingly is falling behind its attempts to get the system into a state of good repair. Hurricane Sandy exposed significant problems with the infrastructure, and not enough effort has gone in to make sure that the lessons are learned and applied to the system.

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