(NaturalNews) As the city of Los Angeles ages, its infrastructure is becoming increasingly fragile, and worse, city officials have no idea how they are going to finance upgrades. This, in a city -- and a state -- with some of the highest tax rates in the country, and it still isn't enough.
As reported by Bloomberg News:
From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can't handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion -- more than half the city's annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.
Recently, City Council members abandoned a proposal to ask voters to approve a sales tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs. Also, Mayor Eric Garcetti says any plans to raise water rates to finance the upgrade of pipelines is also off the table, for now.
"We're in trouble," Jack Humphreville, the budget advocate for L.A.'s advisory neighborhood councils, told Bloomberg News. He says that, based on figures that he was given by the city, it will cost between $10 billion and $15 billion to upgrade public works in the city.
"This is no different from debt," he added.
It will take trillions of dollars to fix
The decay -- and resultant problems -- are evident on a daily basis, and they are often problems with no easy, or inexpensive, solutions. Just recently, for instance, a 30-foot geyser of water that spurted about 20 million gallons from a ruptured trunk line underneath Sunset Boulevard at the end of July brought new attention to the city's infrastructure problems. That disaster led the City Council to press on the Department of Water and Power, to assess pipelines and other parts of the system; no one, however, talked about finding the money to fix the problems identified.
"We can't tax our way out of this," Councilman Mitchell Englander said, adding that voters likely would not approve a local sales tax hike, which, at 9 percent, is already among the nation's highest. And he says residents might revolt if the price of water were to be increased, because the current rate is the seventh-highest in the country, according to a survey by the conservation nonprofit group Circle of Blue.
It isn't as if the city hasn't gotten its money's worth from the existing aging infrastructure. The water main that burst underneath Sunset Blvd. was 90 years old, Bloomberg News reported, adding:
To replace every line by the time it hits 100 -- as many engineers recommend -- would require a 4 percent boost in water rates every year, according to City Councilman Paul Koretz.
"It's so much work," he said. "We have infrastructure in need of replacing at a quicker rate than we have been."
'Infrastructure is difficult, politically'
Many other cities around the country are in the same (bad) position; they have put off investing in new bridges, wastewater systems, dams and other public works and infrastructure projects that then require regular maintenance and upgrades.
According to a recent study by the American Society of Civil Engineers, it would cost the nation $3.6 trillion to get all infrastructure in decent working order by 2020 -- and that, of course, is the figure before you count the inevitable waste, fraud, abuse and inflation such massive outlays generally produce.
Here are a few of the biggest cases of need:
-- Just to upgrade and/or repair systems that treat and distribute drinking water in the U.S. would cost $384 billion over the next two decades, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (whose regulations over the years have, no doubt, raised those costs substantially);
-- the National Association of Water Companies says the bill for California alone is $74 billion;
-- New York City has some 6,800 miles of water mains and is spending about $716 million on capital improvements this year alone; and
-- L.A., meanwhile, has about 7,225 miles and is spending around $766 million annually.
"Infrastructure is a very difficult thing politically. It's not the same as putting more cops on the streets," Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, told Bloomberg News.