Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

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Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Crumbling Infrastructure


Long a source of national pride, America's infrastructure is in critical need of repair, but federal spending on the issue has gone down 9 percent in the past decade.  

Republican Ray LaHood was an Illinois member of the House of Representative from 1994 to 2008, until President Obama asked him in 2009 to become his Secretary of Transportation.  Our former Secretary of Transportation blames Congress for failing to raise the gas tax for 23 years.
He insists: “We're like a third-world country when it comes to infrastructure.”

Nearly 60,000 bridges across America are in desperate need of repair.  One example is down the street from the White House and Capitol Hill.  In our nation's capital, 68,000 vehicles a day cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge between Washington and Virginia.

National Park Service spokesperson Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles has disclosed: "It's just eroding and concrete is falling off."  The original support beams of the Arlington Memorial Bridge have been corroding since 1932.  The beams have never been replaced, and the bridge could be closed to vehicle traffic within five years if they are not fixed.  It would cost $250 million.”

In 1932, Congress was dealing with the Great Depression, but President Herbert Hoover enacted the first federal gas tax of 1 cent per gallon. The gas tax is a major source of funding for bridges and roads that has been raised periodically until 1993, when it was set at 18.4 cents per gallon.

Although the gas tax has remained steady, vehicles have become more efficient.  And, according to the Congressional Budget Office our federal government spending on infrastructure declined 9 percent from 2003-14.

Beyond funding, there is the issue of how to make our bridges better.  Researchers at the University of Michigan believe they have a fix.  It’s bendable concrete that can heal itself from cracks.  Demonstration in the university's engineer lab shows regular concrete can fail suddenly.  Professor Victor Li, who developed the technology over the past 10 years, said the bendable concrete can withstand a force hundreds of times more powerful than standard concrete.  Those researchers' hope that would help already crumbling bridges, like the Memorial Bridge near the nation's capital.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, bridge infrastructure investment needs to be increased by $8 billion annually.  The society claims that increase would address the estimated $76 billion needed for our deficient bridges.

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