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America's crumbling infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is crumbling, and the lion’s share of the Stimulus money that could have remedied many of the deficiencies was instead routed to failed “green” projects like Solyndra, tourist enterprises, and political allies of the White House

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has issued its report card on the nation’s infrastructure. The overall rate, covering items such as dams, drinking water, waste systems, levees, transportation, bridges, waterways, ports, rail, roads, mass transit, parks, schools, and energy was a lowly D+.

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee noted that “America’s infrastructure has fallen in rank from 6th in the world to 25th in just the past 5 years…aging transportation infrastructure is expected to increase the cost of business in America by an estimated $430 billion in the next decade.”

32% of American roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 25% of bridges are rated as structurally deficient. The American Automobile Association notes that many of the 30,000 deaths that occur on U.S. highways are “attributable to the direct result of inadequate lighting, poor signage or outdated road design that might have been prevented by fixing unsafe roads.”

Many of these areas were supposed to be addressed by all that ($787 billion) Stimulus money, but most were not. In some cases, dollars were spent foolishly, on projects such as bike lanes, instead of on major, urgently needed transportation needs. Other examples, cited in a Fiscal Times report:$2 million was spent on a “replica railroad,” a tourist attraction, and $1 million was spent on beefing up security on cruise ships.

New York’s Fulton Street project was the largest single item funded, at an original cost of $750 million. The project remains incomplete (it may open this year) with a reported price tag of $1.4 billion, including $423 billion in stimulus funds.

According to an Economist report, “The stimulus bill's spending on infrastructure may have been doomed to mediocrity from the start. First, and most important, a relatively small share of the bill was actually devoted to infrastructure… But even on the broadest definition of the term, infrastructure got $150 billion, under a fifth of the total. Just $64 billion, or 8% of the total, went to roads, public transport, rail, bridges, aviation and wastewater systems… “

“Meanwhile the bill's most notable project, high-speed passenger rail, threatens to become a debacle. It is fun to imagine trains whizzing across the heartland. But there is no urgent need for them. Freight companies worry that new passenger services will simply increase congestion. Any new rail service, meanwhile, is unlikely to be particularly fast. The Recovery Act dedicated $8 billion for high-speed trains, a sizeable sum but not enough for any train that is actually high-speed…”

Far too much of the funding was spent on paybacks to big political contributors.

Some examples were provided by Ron Hart in a Times Free Press article: “Of the money spent in swing state Wisconsin, 80 percent went to public sector unions… In fact, right to work states got $266 less per person in stimulus money than heavily unionized states…The states that hurt the most, got less money than richer states closer to power. Washington, D.C. got the most stimulus money: $7,602 per capita.”

Many needs were left unaddressed because they weren’t “shovel-ready,” meaning politicians couldn’t use them as feathers in their caps before the next election.

Mistrust of how future spending will be handled prevents a bipartisan solution.

The U.S. faces serious budgetary choices. Many politically popular entitlement programs, such as food stamps were expanded up to 41% over the past four years, eating up funds that should have been used to keep roads, bridges, power lines, and water pipes operational.