Orange County Branch Newsletter

May 2013

President's Message

Infrastructure

By Tapas Dutta, P.E.



Wikipedia defines infrastructure as “(the) basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”  In societal terms, infrastructure is the basic life lines to its formation, success and survival.  The streets, bridges, rail, water and sewer lines that connect communities are essential for its existence - and all rely on civil engineers.  We are an essential component of an advanced team that may set out in the future to form a new civilization on another world.

Infrastructure is one of the three main components of ASCE’s advocacy.  ASCE states that “To remain a strong and prosperous nation, we must maintain and continue to improve the infrastructure that makes us great.”

What happens when the infrastructure of a place is inadequate?  It equates to inferior quality of life if the water and sewer systems are sub-standard; if the movement of goods and people require inordinate time and expense.  One of the main reasons of people leaving the population centers in California is “congestion”:  the amount of time people are delayed in traffic results in millions of dollars of lost productivity.  Similarly businesses tend to move away from areas with poor infrastructure.  It is logical to assume that the people and businesses that move away are the ones that are the most able to do so.  In other words, the more successful, profitable and affluent people and businesses are likely to move away first. The result is a depreciation of tax stream to the community as well as a likely deprecation of property values.  This results in less money available to upgrade the infrastructure and the vicious cycle continues.

The flip side is equally true. Communities that invest in their infrastructure are more readily able to attract people and businesses which bring in increased revenue.

What is the state of our infrastructure? Deplorable, is the short answer.  ASCE has been putting out infrastructure report cards at the national, state and local levels for a number of years.  The assigned grades are poor; but more significantly, with every year we fall behind on repairing and upgrading our crumbling infrastructure, the cost goes up exponentially.  The latest report card at the national level was released earlier this year.  The grades for the various sectors are mostly in the C’s and D’s, with a national average GPA of D+.  You can find more details at:  http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

The pertinent and frightening fact is the actual need for funding versus what we are actually spending.  ASCE estimates that $2.2 trillion is needed over the next five years to bring infrastructure to passing grades.  What are we actually planning to spend?  About $1.024 trillion, leaving a shortfall of $1.176 trillion.

ASCE has also published a series of economic reports entitled “Failure to Act” in the areas of Transportation, Water & Waste Water, Electricity and Airports & Marine Ports.  It predicts that without new funding sources, aging and unreliable infrastructure will cost $1.2 trillion to businesses by 2020 and will cost $611 billion to households by 2020. Details of these reports may be found at:  http://www.asce.org/failuretoact/

It is imperative that each of us spread the word on infrastructure to our friends, facilities and elected officials.  Infrastructure funding should be made a priority.  This impacts us all, and together we can prevent the looming infrastructure disaster, if we act now.

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