In the last couple of months, we have seen some of America's critical infrastructure closed for repairs and replacement, some due to recent damage, such as fires that destroyed part of I-95 in Philadelphia and damaged portions of I-10 Los Angeles. Most of these structures, however, have been worn down and corroded due to mother nature over the years. These infrastructure projects, while impressive and designed to last a long while, were installed over 50 years ago and need some TLC or outright replacement as the amount of traffic on roads and the demand on public utilities is always increasing, with some at or over maximum capacity already. Infrastructure reports for the country rank the condition of these structures as a D, given their current condition (as of 2021), and without significant changes, they will continue to get worse.
Here in the northern states, cracked pavement and ever-present potholes can be seen on the road, increasing in size during the freeze and thaw events of the colder months. This leaves large ruts and holes that need to be filled in and will cause damage to vehicles and possibly cause accidents if the opening has been left alone long enough.
It's no different for bridges. Much of the metal on these structures is exposed to the elements, with the paint and anti-corrosive measure having worn off long ago. This leads to the oxidation of the metal, which accelerates in areas with a high saltwater content along the coast and during winters in the north where salt is used to prevent ice formation on roadways. Without protective coatings and more regular maintenance, the stability and strength of the beams and rebar decreases and creates a dangerous condition for unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians. Vehicles have increased in both volume and weight since the initial construction, which has led to shutting down some or all of the lanes of traffic until the damaged areas can be repaired or a new structure can be erected to take over.
There are other instances with water, electric, and sewer, which are in similar states of disrepair. Some of these have been in the news, such as the Flint water crisis, large wildfires caused by neglected electric transmission lines in California, etc. Many of these systems are only patched when they break, with limited or no preventative maintenance being carried out. Congress needs to take a harder look at fixing what we have instead of going all in on the next shiny new thing.