News of the bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, has urbanists, lawmakers, and everyday citizens alike rethinking the safety of aged infrastructure across the globe. A reported 39 people were killed on Tuesday when part of the cable-stayed Morandi Bridge snapped during a torrential downpour, causing dozens of vehicles to fall 148 feet to the ground. Completed in 1967, the 0.8 mile-long bridge underwent a restructuring effort two years ago and work on the foundation was underway this summer when the collapse occurred. Experts say both the design and maintenance of the 51-year-old bridge may be at fault for the catastrophic event. Many of the 614,387 bridges in the United States are nearing the end of their useful life, says to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Nearly four in ten are 50 years old or more, according to an ASCE report updated last year, but some significant repair work has been done over the last decade to ensure the future safety of a few of these structures. The ASCE reported that the percentage of structurally-deficient bridges in the U.S. has decreased from 12.1 percent to 9.1 percent since 2009 and that about 13.6 percent of the nation’s bridges are functionally obsolete. The ASCE also estimated that 15 percent were built between 40 and 49 years ago and will soon reach the end of their functional lifespan. With 188 million people traveling across poor bridges each year, these figures beg the question: How can the U.S. maintain its aging infrastructure? Though the U.S. has made advances on the state of its bridges, there’s still a long way to go. The ASCE said that it will cost $123 million to fix the nation’s deteriorating bridges and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association adds it will take nearly 37 years to do so. In January, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Bridge Investment Act in Congress, a $75 million measure that would help fund a 10-year federal grant for state bridge repairs, reports Construction Dive. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Posts tagged with "American Society of Civil Engineers":
A new report attempts to quantify the cost of our national reluctance to fix aging bridges, railroads and power lines. Delays in approving infrastructure projects cost the United States some $3.7 trillion, according to the nonpartisan think tank Common Good—more than twice what it would take to fix the infrastructure in the first place, according to a report titled Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals. That staggering price tag includes the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution that continues while local, state, and federal agencies forestall fixes to infrastructure that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates is due for $1.7 trillion in repairs and maintenance through 2020. The New York–based think tank based their numbers on a six-year delay, which they reasoned was accurate according to available data about how long projects typically take to get shovel-ready:
Although large projects often take a decade or longer to permit, we assume that the avoidable delay on major projects is six years. There is ample anecdotal evidence of actual years of delay in the US for different types of infrastructure projects, but little cumulative data. The Federal Highway Administration estimated that the average time for approval of major highway projects was over six years. Five to ten years is a common timeframe for interstate transmission lines, and for wind farms and solar fields on federal lands on either coast.Infrastructure maintenance and repair is, of course, a thoroughly unsexy topic. But, as the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial about Common Good's report, it's important—and perhaps politically viable even in a presidential election cycle:
Common Good suggests building a process that shuttles projects through in a prompt two years. Environmental reviews should be handled by one designated official and kept to 300 pages; litigation should be restricted to the first 90 days after the permit is issued; the White House should be granted authority to appoint an agency as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for interstate projects. Congress could address the permitting morass this fall as part of the transportation bill, and the presidential candidates could include the issue and a horror story or two in their agendas for faster economic growth. It’s hard to imagine a more sensible and politically achievable idea—and one better suited to restoring public confidence that government can carry out its basic duties.
Via Chicago Line Cruises, this infographic tells the tale of one of the greatest engineering projects ever completed: the reversal of the Chicago River. Chicago was booming in the late 1800s, but like many cities of the day it lacked proper sewer infrastructure. As a result the city was choking on its own waste. To solve the problem, engineers launched a project so demanding it spawned its own informal textbook of geological-scale interventions: the Chicago School of Earth Moving. By reversing the river, Chicagoans sent their waterborne waste into the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico, instead of into Lake Michigan. That decision was controversial at the time, and part of the reason Chicago got away with flushing their refuse past St. Louis is that engineers blasted the decisive dam to start the new flow in the middle of the night on New Years Day—just in time to preempt a lawsuit coming together in St. Louis. Today the decision is still controversial—for its contribution to toxic algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, and for its otherwise unprecedented withdrawal of fresh water from the Great Lakes—but it has also come to be revered for its sheer engineering bombast. The American Society of Civil Engineers in 1999 named The Chicago Wastewater System a "Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium."
“Can you be an engineer and speak out for reform?” That’s the question one civil engineer and blogger posed on his website, strongtowns.org, after a former American Society of Civil Engineers fellow filed a complaint with his state licensing board. According to the blogger, Charles Marohn, it was retaliation for a post critiquing Minnesota’s plan to spend much of its transportation budget on new construction instead of maintenance. http://youtu.be/P9BUyWVg1xI The impulse to build more and more was indicative of a much larger problem in the profession, and in U.S. urban planning. “[Our system is] one big Ponzi scheme attempting to prop up a rolling development extravaganza of strip malls, big box stores, fast food, and cheap residential housing,” wrote Marohn. Eaves certainly doesn’t want to incur the wrath of the Minnesota Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience & Interior Design (whew!), but bravo to Marohn for spilling some digital ink on the subject of smart growth that restores some meaning to the word “smart.”