The U.S.A’s infrastructure is in dire need of improvement. According to the most recent Infrastructure Report Card released by the ASCE, if America’s infrastructure received a letter grade, it currently deserves a D+.
Infrastructure such as roads, transit, stormwater, water, wastewater, dams, bridges, aviation, etc. is in desperate need of attention, but where is the “low-hanging fruit?” Here are five suggestions for how the U.S. can almost immediately improve its infrastructure and move towards a safer and more sustainable future.
There are examples of remarkable success through privatization of specific infrastructure sectors in North America. For example, air traffic control in Canada is privatized and economically prosperous. Other privatization efforts include public-private partnership (P3) toll road projects such as the I-77 HOT Lanes project in Charlotte, North Carolina, and successful P3 toll roads in Texas like Dallas’ LBJ Expressway and Fort Worth’s North Tarrant Express. Additional P3 projects include largescale water and wastewater treatment projects, and light-rail systems.
The most recent U.S. administration is moving towards the privatization model as a means of shifting infrastructure projects to private companies. This shift is occurring because private companies show a greater propensity to take on risk. When compared to federal and state governments, private companies are more likely to strictly adhere to factors like budget and schedule.
- Implement Technology
Advancements in technology have greatly improved the engineering community’s ability to monitor infrastructure weaknesses and spot “pain-points.” Imbedded sensor technology can improve wastewater management, make agriculture distribution “smarter,” and highlight where bridges are most likely to fail. In most cases, adding technology to existing infrastructure for monitoring purposes is far more cost effective than additional construction.
- High-Speed Rail
Certain infrastructure projects have greater economic significance than others. High-speed rail corridors (primarily in California and the Southeast) have the potential to add billions of dollars to the national economy and could shift population centers towards areas of greater natural resources. In addition to more efficiently moving people, high-speed rail projects also bolster the sustainability of America’s transportation infrastructure.
- Surface Transportation
The maintenance and improvements to America’s streets and highways are critical. These transportation conduits impact everything from the speed of business transactions to the safety of American citizens. They also influence the cost and use of fossil fuels, and the proliferation of state-to-state business integration. New construction in this space (i.e. new roads, additional lanes, etc.) can almost singlehandedly transform entire geographic areas and significantly reduce the amount of time and money spent travelling on America’s roadways.
- Infrastructure Assessment and Monitoring
Most of the country’s important infrastructure facilities are buried beneath the earth. Due to the large and varied amount of buried telecommunications and electrical lines, natural gas pipes, water and sewer mains, drainage conduits and tunnel systems, it’s impossible to understate the necessity of better infrastructure assessment and monitoring. In order to prevent costly and dangerous infrastructure failure due to age, condition or because of damage caused during new construction, America needs to invest in surveying by geomatics and closed circuit television (CCTV), mapping, assessment, monitoring, rehabilitation and/or replacement of its underground systems. Coordination of nearly every type of field technician, system inspector, CCTV operator, geomatics personnel, technical professional and engineer will be needed to prevent failure of this infrastructure. These efforts also require extensive communication between municipal and governmental agencies, and utility companies.
Shield Engineering is proud to offer consulting services on new and existing infrastructure projects all over the U.S.
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