How Engineers Can Help Rebuild Our Country’s Crumbling Infrastructure
It’s no secret that America’s infrastructure has been steadily falling apart for quite some time. While some areas of the country are still faring rather well, other states face a multitude of crumbling roads and bridges, aging dams, outdated airports and obsolete seaports. While much of the crumbling infrastructure can be attributed to a lack of funding, many feel the main culprit is simply neglect.
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With nearly 70,000 bridges in America now considered to be structurally deficient, and with tens of millions of Americans crossing those bridges each day, it is more important than ever to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and end the paralysis that seems to grip the entourage of politicians who can put forth the bills and find the funding to make a difference.
Engineers Give Our Infrastructure a Near Failing Grade
The American Society of Civil Engineers recently released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, giving out a grade of D+ and stating that the current proposed plan for an investment of a trillion dollars into the infrastructure is only a quarter of what is actually needed to upgrade the infrastructure sufficiently enough to earn a B grade.
The ASCE, comprised of civil engineers located all across the country, evaluated 16 categories of infrastructure. The organization proposed that today’s elected leaders invest heavily in infrastructure and work with top engineers to develop innovative solutions to better prepare the infrastructure for the future.
Currently, there are no viable solutions to rectify the long periods of neglect, delayed maintenance and lack of funding. The National Society of Professional Engineers stated that it is now up to engineers to step forward into a leadership role. With the experience, education and skills needed to fulfill their obligations to public health and safety, professional engineers have the tools needed to directly influence the development, growth and rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure.
The Role Professional Engineers Can Play in Rebuilding the Infrastructure
Professional engineers can provide the U.S. Department of Transportation and other parties and organizations with critical expertise, suggest important improvements, and propose possible solutions to address the many issues and concerns regarding each aspect of the infrastructure.
With a focus on new and innovative design, an improvement in construction quality, cost management and, of course, public safety, professional engineers play a key role in the future of the country’s infrastructure. While finding the funding for infrastructure investment is a detail best left to the nation’s leaders, how best to apply that funding is a topic that should be thoroughly discussed with engineers.
Professional engineers have put forth a number of new ideas that might serve to create an upgraded infrastructure that maintains its durability and efficiency far into the future. For example, new methods for mapping infrastructure buried beneath the ground, such as electrical cables and sewer pipes, can not only help improve the infrastructure, but also enable it to be better maintained.
Another example involving transportation is the development of transportation hubs where several services are lining together, improving efficiency and meeting the varied transportation needs of citizens.
A further example related to public utilities combines water, energy and waste systems in order to improve sustainability through a scaled system.
Engineers can also recommend new materials and construction methods. Today’s advances in robotics, science and materials development have resulted in a large number of cost-effective and more durable materials, along with improved methods for infrastructure development and construction times. As an example, many cities already factor landscape design into their plans for dealing with stormwater runoff, while other cities that are laying new roads utilize pavement materials designed to allow rainwater to reach the ground beneath while also reducing overhead temperatures.
The development of promising engineering solutions will be the first step to creating a strong, better and longer-lasting infrastructure. Of course, political hurdles, city policies and funding for the vast number of projects that face immediate concern are also problems that need to be overcome. National policies must be enacted in order to improve construction and maintenance as well as encourage energy efficiency. Policies must also address population growth and rising energy use and costs.
What Lies Ahead
It has already been suggested that new investments to further the growth of the clean energy and energy efficiency industries are an important step to help develop plans and acquire funding for the rebuilding of the infrastructure. This is because the growth of such industries will in turn boost economic growth and, subsequently, job growth.
Additionally, putting forth a decent amount of spending on hiring for workers to rebuild the infrastructure results in increased consumer spending and further economic activity, thereby continuing the accumulation of funds needed to continually invest in the infrastructure. A strong infrastructure also serves to boost productivity. Therefore, it is critical that the country’s infrastructure remains a prevalent topic of concern, not just for the safety of the public and the health of the roads, bridges, sewer systems, etc., but also for the job health of the nation and its economy.
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