[Homestead] Real, severe infrastructure disinvestment goes unaddressed

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sun Sep 19 13:47:24 EDT 2004

Crowded off the front page by drivel like gay marriage, flagwaving aka 
"desecration", other complete non-events that have no affect on our 
lives, while crumbling infrastructure all over the U.S. is an atomic 
bomb ticking away, capable of exploding any day now.

latimes.com <http://www.latimes.com/>


  Snapshots of a Crisis

    A contest to capture pictures of the sorry state of the nation's
    infrastructure should push us to get our priorities in focus.

September 19, 2004

Here's a chance to put that new digital camera to work. The American 
Society of Civil Engineers is offering cash prizes for photos that 
capture the sorry state of the nation's infrastructure. California would 
seem a sure bet to sweep the "Postcards From the Edge" competition, 
given that our highways are being pounded to dust, our energy system is 
prone to meltdowns and no one really knows where tomorrow's water will 
come from.

Unfortunately, California merely reflects a nation where photo 
opportunities are endless. Californians bicker over who should pay for a 
$5.1-billion seismic retrofit of the Bay Bridge, but a third of New 
York's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. It's 
big news in a dry state when a levee breaks on the Sacramento-San 
Joaquin River Delta, but Texans live near 851 high-hazard dams where a 
failure would probably lead to loss of human life. Heather Locklear has 
her hands full at gate- and runway-challenged LAX, but even Wonder Woman 
would be hard pressed to fix the nation's largest airport (Chicago 
O'Hare), where just 70% of flights depart on time.

At least $1.6 trillion (up from $1.3 trillion two years ago) is needed 
to put the nation's sewage treatment plants, filtration plants, highways 
and airports in safe, working order. The meter continued to run through 
the booming 1990s, when Americans concentrated on their own material 
assets, amassing wealth for themselves while not spending it on the 
community. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith framed that dichotomy in his 
book "The Affluent Society" as "private opulence and public squalor." He 
wrote about "the family which takes its mauve and cerise, 
air-conditioned, power-steered and power-braked automobile out for a 
tour" and "passes through cities that are badly paved, made hideous by 
litter, blighted buildings, billboards and posts for wires that should 
long since have been put underground."

Today that family's SUV would idle in a traffic jam on the 710 Freeway, 
where diesel-induced illness is a fact of life.

They might pass one of the nearly 70 emergency rooms that have shut down 
statewide in the last decade. And if they drove through San Diego, they 
might wonder why, four months after a wildfire killed 16 people and 
destroyed 3,200 structures, the locals defeated four of seven ballot 
measures to improve fire protection.

Americans like wide-open freeways and uncrowded airports, but they don't 
like to pay for them, and they certainly don't like them in their 
neighborhoods. Hence plans to modernize LAX remain in a decade-long 
holding pattern. Badly needed highway projects are stalled. Levees and 
the mains that carry our water are crumbling.

The comfortable family in Galbraith's imaginary sedan eventually 
questions the "curious unevenness of their blessings." Southern 
Californians could be doing the same.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at 
latimes.com/archives <http://www.latimes.com/archives>.
TMS Reprints <http://www.latimes.com/copyright>
Article licensing and reprint options <http://www.latimes.com/copyright>


Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

More information about the Homestead mailing list