Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tampa's 30 busted water lines. Maybe Florida needs a New Deal?

(On a PWA-funded project in San Francisco, circa 1933-39, a worker welds together a water main reinforcement. Photo courtesy of the National Archives and the New Deal Network.)

A few days ago it was reported that Tampa "Water crews are working to repair 30 busted pipes throughout the city" ("Crews work to fix multiple water main breaks in Tampa," Fox 13 News, December 18, 2014).

The culprit? "...according to Public Works and Utilities Administrator Brad Baird...the pipes are old, and the ever-fluctuating temperature causes them to expand in the heat, contract in the cold and ultimately crack, break and leak. 'It's very difficult for pipes to handle that. Especially pipes that are 80 years old.'"

According to a 2013 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Florida needs $16.4 billion for its drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years.

Maybe Florida needs a New Deal?

Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA alone installed 264 miles of new water lines in the Sunshine State (see page 136 in the Final Report on the WPA Program). Many of these lines are still (obviously) being used today, well past their intended lifespan.

There were also PWA infrastructure projects, CWA infrastructure projects, CCC infrastructure projects, and, well, you get the point. The New Deal was basically a cornucopia of infrastructure projects--projects that have served our country for three quarters of a century now (see the Living New Deal for thousands of still-existing sites, structures, and works of art from the New Deal era). However, with respect to New Deal water lines, sewer lines, storm drains, etc., c'mon folks, it's time to change them out already. These New Deal lines have served us from the time of the Model A to the time of the Mars Rover. I'd say they've done their bit for king and country. It's well past time to let them retire and have some younger pipes take over.

Of course, creating a new WPA would require a lot of time & effort from our Congressmen and women. And, unfortunately, they've been terribly busy working on other projects, like ensuring that big financial institutions can continue to engage in taxpayer-backed gambling & fraud, and also ensuring that super-wealthy Americans are able to give more campaign money than ever before to whichever politician will pamper them the most. So, yeah, I guess they just don't have time for silly things like, for example, our nation's crumbling infrastructure. And don't you dare question them on this either, otherwise you might be considered immature, or perhaps even "the devil."

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