Sunday, March 24, 2013

Infrastructure Report Card: Bridges: "C+"

(A WPA crew working on a bridge in Harford County, Maryland, in 1936. The caption for the photo reads: "Welding new steel for strengthening. Painting 1st coat aluminum." Image courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)    

In their new Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives American bridges a "C+". Though this is one of the better grades in the report card, the ASCE notes: "Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years."

During the New Deal, the WPA employed the jobless to (among other things) build, repair, and improve bridges. The WPA built 78,000 new bridges and viaducts, and repaired and improved thousands more. We still drive across many of these bridges today.

27 million Americans would like a full time job, but can't find one. Nearly 5 million Americans are considered "long-term unemployed" by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The current labor force participation rate in America is historically low. There is no WPA today. Few of our political "leaders" even discuss it.   

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