Infrastructure typically refers to the technical structures that support a society, such as roads, water supply, wastewater, power grids, floodmanagement systems, communications (internet, phone lines, broadcasting). In the past, these systems have typically been owned and managed by local or central governments.
North Dakota and Others Brace for Flooding
Published Friday, March 27th, 2009
Parts of North Dakota sat underwater Thursday as rising waters from melting snow swelled the banks of the Red River. Experts predict a historic 41-foot crest by Saturday. The existing dikes, designed for a maximum 39ft crest, may be unable to contain the river’s swell. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the last flood near the predicted crest was in 1997 at 39.6ft and in 1897 at 40.1ft in Fargo, the Red River’s most populated city. The Red River filters into the Missouri River, and nearly 4,000 people were evacuated Tuesday from an area near Bismarck.
In the new 2010 fiscal year budget, up for vote in Congress, President Obama supports the safe and reliable operation and maintenance of key existing water resources infrastructure. The budget funding amounts to $5.1 billion and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $4.6 billion for infrastructure and Army Corps of Engineers discretionary funding. From the Red River, the water empties into the Missouri river, then flowing into the Mississippi river down to New Orleans where, after Katrina, the $15 billion upgrade, scheduled for completion in 2011, is only 20% complete.
The Final Stimulus Package
Published Friday, February 20th, 2009
This week in Denver, the President signed the $787 billion stimulus package that streaked its way through Congress. The final bill is split into 36% for tax cuts and 64% percent in spending and money for social programs. Overall, it is $38 billion different from the original plan President Obama had introduced earlier in January. Highlights include:
• $787 billion total, $38 billion subtracted from original
• $308 billion in total spending, $142 billion subtracted (Federal Budget)
• $190 billion in Federal Aid for Education, Public Safety, Low-income, Individual and Health Care (Number of U.S. citizens below the poverty level)
• $288 billion in tax relief ($800—down from $1000—tax cuts for families, $400 tax cuts for individuals through social security payroll deductions, Business, Manufacturing, Economy, Infrastructure, Energy and other tax cuts), $13 billion added (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $48 billion for infrastructure, $42 billion subtracted (Spending on infrastructure)
• $90 billion Medicaid aid to states, $3 billion added (Public and private expenditures for health care)
• $53.6 billion to aid state in education, $25.4 billion subtracted
(Spending for the Department of Education)
• $44.6 billion for additional school funding to balance education budgets, prevent cutbacks and modernize schools, $3.6 billion added (Average finances by school district size and Higher education spending)
• $45 billion to encourage renewable energy production, $9 billion subtracted
(Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $18.6 billion for health care technology incentives and research for effective treatments, $5.4 billion subtracted (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $16 billion for Science/technology, equal (Research funds for science and technology)
• $15.6 billion to increase Pell Grants by $500, $0.6 billion added
Of course, this is just the combined highlights; the Stimulus and Recovery Act is well over 1,000 pages long. The administration, in an effort to become more tranparent, has set up a site in which anyone can track how and where the money is being spent: www.recovery.gov
The Stimulus Package, Before the Politicking
Published Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Last night, the US House of Representatives passed its version of President Obama’s Stimulus package. The original package-as of January 15th-before the House debated and changed the bill, contained the following provisions:
• $825 billion total
• $550 billion in new spending. (Federal Budget)
• $275 billion in tax relief ($1,000 tax cut for families, $500 tax cut for individuals through SS payroll deductions). (Tax as a percentage of GDP)
• $ 90 billion for infrastructure (Spending on infrastructure)
• $ 87 billion Medicaid aid to states. (Numbers of enrollees)
• $ 79 billion school districts/public colleges to prevent cutbacks. (Average finances by school district size)
• $ 41 billion for additional school funding ($14 billion for school modernizations and repairs, $13 billion for Title I, $13 billion for IDEA special education funding, $1 billion for education technology) (Spending for the Department of Education)
• $ 54 billion to encourage energy production from renewable sources (Non-Renewable v. Renewable)
• $ 24 billion for “health information technology to prevent medical mistakes, provide better care to patients and introduce cost-saving efficiencies” and “to provide for preventative care and to evaluate the most effective health care treatments.” (Cost per patient per day and per stay)
• $ 16 billion for science/technology ($10 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation; $6 billion to expand broadband to rural areas). (Research funds for science and technology)
• $ 15 billion to increase Pell grants by $500 (Rising tuition)
• $ 6 billion for “higher education modernization.” (Higher education Spending)
Infrastructure and Renewable Energy Policy Highlighted
Published Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
In the inaugural address, President Obama called for a new energy policy. “Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet…We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories… We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”
About 13% of our primary energy comes from renewable sources, with most of this coming from traditional biomass like wood-burning. Hydro power is the next largest source, providing 2-3%, and modern technologies like geothermal, wind, solar, and marine energy together produce less than 1% of total world energy demand. The technical potential for their use is very large. However, without the available spending on an improved infrastructure—as President Obama suggests—the efforts to increase the use of renewable sources will be impacted by an aging grid, not designed to support such sources. Therefore, the President wants to spend out of his proposed stimulus package “$150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of bio-fuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid.”
Published Thursday, September 4th, 2008
“A Calculus of Hope” is what the New York Times called the billion dollar patch job to the Mississippi River levee system. The Army Corps of Engineers website for New Orleans (nolarisk.usace.army.mil) shows street by street how the repaired system would protect the crescent city if another storm were to hit. The repairs, originally set at $7 Billion and now at $14 Billion, would not save the city from a 1-in-100 storm, much less a storm like Katrina which was a 1-in-396.
Right up the River in Minneapolis, in July 3, 2007, the I-35W Bridge collapsed, the cause was structural decay. A report written by the Huffington Post recounted the call for repairs has not been completed due to “soaring construction costs, budget shortages, election-year politics, a backlog of bridge projects, competing highway repairs and bureaucracy often held bridge work to only incremental progress.”
The US Budget has provided for the Corp of Engineers since 1779 when it was only one engineer and two assistances. Historic data suggest that prior to our entry into WWII, the Federal Government and the states allocated 2.1% of the US budget for Major Physical Capitol Investments. After the war, the outlays for the US infrastructure has never reached above 0.5% (only in 1950 and 1964), for a majority of the time the rate was 0.3% and recently fallen to 0.2% of the entire US Budget.
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
The Committee Ensures the Safety and Security of our Nation’s Transportation Systems and other Critical Infrastructure. Invest in our Nation’s Infrastructure to Relieve Congestion, Ensure U.S. Competitiveness, and Improve the Daily Lives of Citizens. Addresses Global Climate Change and Renewing our Commitment to Clean Water, Energy Independence, and Environmental Stewardship.
American Society of Civil Engineers: Infrastructure Report Card - http://www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/index.cfm
ASCE sponsored a Congressional Quarterly Forum that explored the solutions for improving, maintaining, and expanding our nation's infrastructure. Read about the infrastructure issues in your region and how you can help raise the grade on America's failing infrastructure.