(NaturalNews) They say the integrity of a nation's infrastructure is a direct reflection of its overall moral, social, economic, and political health. If this is true, then the United States is in some very serious trouble, as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), America's oldest national engineering society, has given a near-failing grade to almost every national infrastructure category in its most recent Report Card for America's Infrastructure.
All those stories that have emerged in recent years about bridges collapsing, roads failing, and dams and levees beginning to crumble are apparently not mere flukes. To the contrary, many of the nation's bridges, dams, water treatment plants, power generation facilities, roadways, levees, railways, parks, transit systems, and schools are in very serious disrepair -- and unless tax dollars are diverted from filling the pockets of fat cats to actually maintaining the means through which we all live, the entire nation will literally crumble into dust.
There are not enough roads, and too many of them are falling apart
America's decaying roadway systems are one of the most obvious infrastructure failures, as nearly every single American uses them on a daily basis. According to ASCE's calculations, America's roadways earn a grade of D-, which is basically a failing grade, because there are not enough roads for the amount of people that use them, and many of them are in very poor condition with no immediate signs of being repaired.
According to the group's analysis, Americans collectively spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic because of inadequate roads, which costs them $78.2 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs, or about $710 per person. Existing roads are also declining in many areas, especially in urbanized areas where "acceptable ride quality" is now as low as 72.4 percent. (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/fact-sheet/roads)
One in four American bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete
Bridges are another major problem in the U.S., as many of them are on the brink of becoming structurally unsound, or of completely collapsing. ASCE says that more than 26 percent of the nation's rural bridges are not up to par structurally or functionally, while more than 30 percent of urban bridges fall into this category.
Earning a C grade on the ASCE scale, the bridge category needs a yearly cash injection of about $17 billion in order to adequately retrofit the nation's bridges and make them safe for travel and use. Since the average age of America's more than 600,000 bridges is around 43 years old, it is important for public safety that these aging bridges be thoroughly inspected and repaired if needed. (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/fact-sheet/bridges)
Thousands of dams are on the verge of failure
Dams provide energy, water, and flood protection for many areas of the country, including heavily populated urban areas. But nearly 6,000 of these dams are now considered to be deficient, with more than 1,800 of them having a high "hazard potential," which means that their failure could result in catastrophic loss of life.
Based on the latest available data, there are more than 1,700 high hazard dams in desperate need of repair, up from only a few hundred back in 2001. But only a few dozen of them receive adequate retrofit every year, while the number of new dams needing repair every year increases by several hundred. At the current rate, there will more than likely eventually be a cascade of dam failures that will result in a significant loss of human life and infrastructure. (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/fact-sheet/dams)