Infrastructure

Post Reply
User avatar
Mo
Posts: 25919
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:08

Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

Why the fuck do we put up with such crappy infrastructure here? Roads in parts of NYC* resemble those of a third world country. Major blackouts from mere storms are an annual occurrence, our bridges and highways are a disgrace, cell coverage and reception is a joke and we're operating with pipes that are decades past their planned life. If this was normal in the modern world it would be one thing, but judging by Japan and Europe, we're seriously lagging.

* The wealthiest city in the wealthiest country in the world
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

no one ever yells worldstar when a pet gets fucked up - dhex
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26892
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jennifer »

And the Tappan Zee bridge on the Hudson just north of Manhattan, built on the cheap during the Korean War with an intended lifespan of 50 years, would be obsolete for its traffic load even if it weren't structurally deficient, and even more ominously, its support beams are made of untreated wood, and a parasite which feeds on exactly that species of wood was found downriver.

I took for granted that Connecticut bridges all have lots of rust spots on their metal. And, of course, we lost power for six days (others in the state lost it for as much as two weeks) after that blizzard before last Halloween.

But fixing it all would cost a lot of money, And over the years, maintaining the infrastructure also cost money which nobody wanted to spend, so everyone kept kicking the can down the road.

The Minneapolis interstate bridge collapse five years ago sounded like a third-world or Soviet-bloc calamity, rather than something that should happen in the US.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26892
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jennifer »

Of course, Japan and Europe have an advantage relative to us: their stuff is much, much newer; no pre-World War Two systems there. Our infrastructure was first-rate when it was built; it's just that it was built a loooooong time ago, longer than anything in Europe or the Pacific Rim, and hasn't been upgraded (or even adequately maintained) since.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
Mo
Posts: 25919
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:08

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

Jennifer wrote:Of course, Japan and Europe have an advantage relative to us: their stuff is much, much newer; no pre-World War Two systems there. Our infrastructure was first-rate when it was built; it's just that it was built a loooooong time ago, longer than anything in Europe or the Pacific Rim, and hasn't been upgraded (or even adequately maintained) since.
California's highway system isn't much older than that and they don't have harsh winters and the highways are still pieces of crap. We just dump our money in corporate and social welfare and the military instead of infrastructure. At least infrastructure helps the economy run smoothly and has a nice economic multiple.
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

no one ever yells worldstar when a pet gets fucked up - dhex
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26892
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jennifer »

Mo wrote:
Jennifer wrote:Of course, Japan and Europe have an advantage relative to us: their stuff is much, much newer; no pre-World War Two systems there. Our infrastructure was first-rate when it was built; it's just that it was built a loooooong time ago, longer than anything in Europe or the Pacific Rim, and hasn't been upgraded (or even adequately maintained) since.
California's highway system isn't much older than that and they don't have harsh winters and the highways are still pieces of crap. We just dump our money in corporate and social welfare and the military instead of infrastructure. At least infrastructure helps the economy run smoothly and has a nice economic multiple.
Good point about California. At least some East Coast cities have the "excuse" of age, though. I saw a documentary on it; New York's water system is in some places over 100 years old. First-rate in its day, but a lot of vital maintenance was neglected over the years. And the bridges are even worse.

I don't expect improvement anytime soon; we can't afford new infrastructure because all the money's going to public pensions and fighting the wars and imprisoning the drug users and all that other bullshit. It'll only keep getting worse.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
Aresen
Posts: 17945
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 20:18
Location: Great White Pacific Northwest

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Aresen »

I am unconvinced that infrastructure elsewhere is in much better shape than in the US. (It certainly is not here.)

Water and electrical systems elsewhere are generally mediocre to crappy. Streets and roads are comparable (many streets in Central Paris are still cobblestone FCOL) and their airports are just as bad. (I hate hate hate Heathrow.)

And one need look no further than Fukushima to realize that much capital equipment in other countries is badly designed and maintained. (The Fukushima reactor seems a particularly egregious example of an inability to design for 'fail safe'.)

If the US has a particular problem, I would say it is NIMBYism run amok, with literally scores of hurdles and endless politicing before any significant project can begin. (I'm looking at YOU, Nevada. The continents would have drifted significantly before Yucca mountain had a serious radiation leak, by which time any dangerous isotopes would have decayed to barely traceable levels.)

Also, the desire to 'kick the can down the road' on necessary replacement and maintenance is pretty universal. The City of Victoria has just begun the replacement of a 100 year old bridge that was well past it's maximum intended life. But a bunch of activists forced a plebiscite that delayed it for 2 years and raised the cost significantly. The irony is that the bridge was built after another bridge at the spot collapsed under a trolley car, killing over 50 people.
If Trump supporters wanted a tough guy, why did they elect such a whiny bitch? - Mo

Those who know history are doomed to deja vu. - the innominate one

Never bring a knife to a joke fight" - dhex
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26892
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jennifer »

Aresen wrote:The irony is that the bridge was built after another bridge at the spot collapsed under a trolley car, killing over 50 people.
Minneapolis got a nice new bridge to replace the one that collapsed, too. I am not convinced anyone will fix/replace the Tappan Zee before it collapses, though.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
thoreau
Posts: 31577
Joined: 06 May 2010, 12:56
Location: Back to the lab again

Re: Infrastructure

Post by thoreau »

Yeah, instead of spending $400/gallon to get fuel to Afghanistan, maybe we ought to try upgrading our roads and electrical grid and water pipes.
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
--JD
User avatar
JasonL
Posts: 25741
Joined: 05 May 2010, 17:22

Re: Infrastructure

Post by JasonL »

Public Choice is what it is, I suspect. Infrastructure is distributed benefits and distributed costs for the most part. Politics doesn't do that very well for bang for the buck reasons. Better concentrated benefits so you can add a group to your constituency check mark style. Also, local pols never get huzzahs for fixing the road, they get pooped on for orange cones.
User avatar
Shem
Posts: 8979
Joined: 27 Apr 2010, 00:27

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Shem »

Jennifer wrote:I don't expect improvement anytime soon; we can't afford new infrastructure because all the money's going to public pensions and fighting the wars and imprisoning the drug users and all that other bullshit. It'll only keep getting worse.
Let's not forget that most of this stuff was built in a time when the highest marginal tax rate was well above 70%; 90% for quite a bit of it. They cut the tax rate, but they didn't change the systems that depended on the revenue that arose from taxes at that level. You can't run a massive interstate highway system (among other things) without massive amounts of money, and if you try, you're just going to wind up like the dog that chased two birds.

Taking on massive debt has helped to soak some of the consequences, but once the line of credit is maxed, we're going to have the same uncomfortable issue as California is now; do we want to be high-tax and high-service, or lower-tax and lower-service. My personal opinion is that a lot of the objection to being the former is going to evaporate once red states find out that stuff like corn subsidies are services.
"VOTE SHEMOCRACY! You will only have to do it once!" -Loyalty Officer Aresen
User avatar
GinSlinger
Posts: 3624
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 20:49
Location: Here today, gone tomorrow

Re: Infrastructure

Post by GinSlinger »

Shem wrote:Let's not forget that most of this stuff was built in a time when the highest marginal tax rate was well above 70%; 90% for quite a bit of it. They cut the tax rate, but they didn't change the systems that depended on the revenue that arose from taxes at that level. You can't run a massive interstate highway system (among other things) without massive amounts of money, and if you try, you're just going to wind up like the dog that chased two birds.
What was the gas tax like? http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/incometax ... -Rates.htm
What was the alcohol excise tax?
Sales taxes? Resources extraction taxes? etc.
User avatar
JasonL
Posts: 25741
Joined: 05 May 2010, 17:22

Re: Infrastructure

Post by JasonL »

Revenues as a percent of GDP haven't moved that much over that period in spite of the top marginal rates changing dramatically. We've never done well at getting more than 19%, and the variance between 15% we are sitting at now and historial averages is mostly explainable by the performance of the economy as a whole. You may be able to get a few tics out of tax increases but it is unlikely that we'd be pulling in a ton more if our rates were a ton higher.
User avatar
thoreau
Posts: 31577
Joined: 06 May 2010, 12:56
Location: Back to the lab again

Re: Infrastructure

Post by thoreau »

JasonL wrote:Revenues as a percent of GDP haven't moved that much over that period in spite of the top marginal rates changing dramatically. We've never done well at getting more than 19%, and the variance between 15% we are sitting at now and historial averages is mostly explainable by the performance of the economy as a whole. You may be able to get a few tics out of tax increases but it is unlikely that we'd be pulling in a ton more if our rates were a ton higher.
15% vs. 19% is pretty substantial, amounting to about 1/4 of tax revenues.
"...if that monkey gets any smarter it's going to start shorting TSLA."
--JD
User avatar
GinSlinger
Posts: 3624
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 20:49
Location: Here today, gone tomorrow

Re: Infrastructure

Post by GinSlinger »

thoreau wrote:
JasonL wrote:Revenues as a percent of GDP haven't moved that much over that period in spite of the top marginal rates changing dramatically. We've never done well at getting more than 19%, and the variance between 15% we are sitting at now and historial averages is mostly explainable by the performance of the economy as a whole. You may be able to get a few tics out of tax increases but it is unlikely that we'd be pulling in a ton more if our rates were a ton higher.
15% vs. 19% is pretty substantial, amounting to about 1/4 of tax revenues.
Well, you can't get blood out of a turnip. Perhaps Obama should have actually created those jobs he promised.
User avatar
Highway
Posts: 14154
Joined: 12 May 2011, 00:22
Location: the Electric Ocean

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Highway »

Reason 1 why maintenance is a back burner item: You don't see it until it's broken. It's hard to get people to pay for fixing something that's 'working fine'.
Reason 2: To fix it, you have to take it out of service. It's hard to justify stopping service to do maintenance. And often you have to take a lot of other things out of service as well, like the roads the pipes are under. It's hard to get people to understand being inconvenienced for something that's 'working fine'.
Reason 3: There are actually very few failures. Considering the amount of infrastructure there is (far more than in Europe, by the way), failures are few and far between.

As for some other things, like 'why do storms wreak such havoc on power lines': They are designed to be 'good enough' for 'a long time'. Making them stronger would be increasing the cost significantly for very little benefit, since the storms that cause problems are not ones that are just barely enough, they're the ones that are overdoing it. Also, people hate when their tree they imprudently planted out in the front of their property gets cut into a giant topiary to avoid possible future storm damage, so there's pushback on branch clearing.

I'll probably have more thoughts to add later, but finally, here's a really big reason: There are very few maintenance and rehabilitation projects that a politician wants to stand in front of when it's done and say "We've spent all of this money to give you... exactly the same thing you had before, but newer." It's a much better 'investment' for them to put it to a new road / bridge / service *expansion* than to maintenance in terms of PR.
Well, that was a long walk down a windy beach to a cafe that was closed...
User avatar
Ayn_Randian
Posts: 10727
Joined: 08 May 2010, 14:58

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Ayn_Randian »

thoreau wrote:
JasonL wrote:Revenues as a percent of GDP haven't moved that much over that period in spite of the top marginal rates changing dramatically. We've never done well at getting more than 19%, and the variance between 15% we are sitting at now and historial averages is mostly explainable by the performance of the economy as a whole. You may be able to get a few tics out of tax increases but it is unlikely that we'd be pulling in a ton more if our rates were a ton higher.
15% vs. 19% is pretty substantial, amounting to about 1/4 of tax revenues.
The point being, though, that raising marginal rates to 70-90% is not going to help the highway system any. I see little evidence that we are not collecting enough money to adequately maintain a highway system.

I would submit that roads are getting noticeably worse off because states and localities are worse off, because the economy is down. There is not much to be done about it, really. I mean, you could privatize some of the roads, and that might help.
It has the effect of making me want desperately to do the opposite of what Green Day is suggesting I should want to do. Billy Joe Whassname may have created a generation of war mongers. - Jason L
User avatar
Highway
Posts: 14154
Joined: 12 May 2011, 00:22
Location: the Electric Ocean

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Highway »

A lot depends on your definition of 'adequate maintenance'. Like everything else, there are tons of tradeoffs in the design and construction of all types of infrastructure. And there are tradeoffs in how you maintain things. Take, for instance, pothole repair on a road. If a road gets really broken up, you have options of either a full grind and resurface with base course patching, spot grinding and resurfacing, or just filling the potholes. If it's on a concrete (by the way, if I say "concrete" with respect to roads, I mean portland cement concrete roads, if I say asphalt, I mean asphalt roads. Both are technically 'concrete', but even I'm not that pedantic) road, do you just patch it with cold-patch asphalt? Do you epoxy it? Do you make a concrete patch and tie it into the existing concrete?

Is a bumpy road full of patches 'adequately' maintained? Could be. It could also be borderline. Is a bridge that's past it's 'lifespan' dangerous? Maybe, maybe not. It's unlikely to develop a problem in the time between the last inspection and the next inspection that will cause a catastrophic failure that someone wouldn't see coming. Was the last inspection done well? Did they miss something?

Also, I don't think that the economy has been as much of a hit as most people think. Maintenance budgets are already bare bones just in time stuff, so they can't really be cut more. Capital improvement budgets are the ones that get the big cuts, so you don't get new projects. And remember that even the places that are 'bankrupt' still have a relatively large cashflow. They're bankrupt because income doesn't match spending, but they're spending on something.
Well, that was a long walk down a windy beach to a cafe that was closed...
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26892
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jennifer »

Ayn_Randian wrote: I would submit that roads are getting noticeably worse off because states and localities are worse off, because the economy is down.
The Minneapolis bridge collapsed before the economy did, though. And the Tappan Zee passed its best-by date before then, too. Right now, the bad economy is the excuse for the poor infrastructure, but the problems were there long before that.

Another problem with infrastructure is, you have to pay for it whether you can afford to or not. It's like if you're driving on ancient tires, all worn-out and bald; you need new tires whether you can afford them or not, and if you don't replace them soon you'll have a blowout and an accident which, if you're lucky, will cost you far more to fix than merely buying new tires, and if you're unlucky can cause you and/or somebody else to die. I'm sure the bridge people in Minneapolis had good, rational, economic reasons why the bridge maintenance needed to be put off, but people still died after the bridge fell into the water. And there's good reasons why New York still can't afford to replace the Tappan Zee, but those reasons won't prevent a bridge collapse once the tipping point is reached.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
Ayn_Randian
Posts: 10727
Joined: 08 May 2010, 14:58

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Ayn_Randian »

Jennifer wrote:
Ayn_Randian wrote: I would submit that roads are getting noticeably worse off because states and localities are worse off, because the economy is down.
The Minneapolis bridge collapsed before the economy did, though. And the Tappan Zee passed its best-by date before then, too. Right now, the bad economy is the excuse for the poor infrastructure, but the problems were there long before that.

Another problem with infrastructure is, you have to pay for it whether you can afford to or not. It's like if you're driving on ancient tires, all worn-out and bald; you need new tires whether you can afford them or not, and if you don't replace them soon you'll have a blowout and an accident which, if you're lucky, will cost you far more to fix than merely buying new tires, and if you're unlucky can cause you and/or somebody else to die. I'm sure the bridge people in Minneapolis had good, rational, economic reasons why the bridge maintenance needed to be put off, but people still died after the bridge fell into the water. And there's good reasons why New York still can't afford to replace the Tappan Zee, but those reasons won't prevent a bridge collapse once the tipping point is reached.
The Minneapolis bridge, to my knowledge, didn't collapse from lack of maintenance.

ETA: Also, it seems that the transit fetishists blocked the Tappan Zee replacement, but that is just from a google search on the relevant news. There is probably more to it than that.
It has the effect of making me want desperately to do the opposite of what Green Day is suggesting I should want to do. Billy Joe Whassname may have created a generation of war mongers. - Jason L
User avatar
Highway
Posts: 14154
Joined: 12 May 2011, 00:22
Location: the Electric Ocean

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Highway »

Jennifer wrote:
Ayn_Randian wrote: I would submit that roads are getting noticeably worse off because states and localities are worse off, because the economy is down.
The Minneapolis bridge collapsed before the economy did, though. And the Tappan Zee passed its best-by date before then, too. Right now, the bad economy is the excuse for the poor infrastructure, but the problems were there long before that.

Another problem with infrastructure is, you have to pay for it whether you can afford to or not. It's like if you're driving on ancient tires, all worn-out and bald; you need new tires whether you can afford them or not, and if you don't replace them soon you'll have a blowout and an accident which, if you're lucky, will cost you far more to fix than merely buying new tires, and if you're unlucky can cause you and/or somebody else to die. I'm sure the bridge people in Minneapolis had good, rational, economic reasons why the bridge maintenance needed to be put off, but people still died after the bridge fell into the water. And there's good reasons why New York still can't afford to replace the Tappan Zee, but those reasons won't prevent a bridge collapse once the tipping point is reached.
It's really a corner case to use the I-35W bridge as an example. Like WAY out there. The reason it's memorable is because it's extremely rare. Looking at Wikipedia's list of Bridge Failures it's exceedingly rare for bridges in the US to collapse just in normal use. As in, there's like 2 in the last 20 years. Most bridge failures are due to accidents or weather, and while maintenance may be a factor, it's unlikely that it's the deciding factor. Bridges usually don't fail quickly and spectacularly . They fail slowly and boringly, and most highway departments know what to look for.
Well, that was a long walk down a windy beach to a cafe that was closed...
User avatar
Highway
Posts: 14154
Joined: 12 May 2011, 00:22
Location: the Electric Ocean

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Highway »

Ayn_Randian wrote:The Minneapolis bridge, to my knowledge, didn't collapse from lack of maintenance.

ETA: Also, it seems that the transit fetishists blocked the Tappan Zee replacement, but that is just from a google search on the relevant news. There is probably more to it than that.
Transit festishists are dickweeds. There's a place for transit, but you don't help anyone out when you hold other projects hostage because you can't get a shiny new train and millions of dollars in subsidy for your particular commute.
Well, that was a long walk down a windy beach to a cafe that was closed...
User avatar
Kolohe
Posts: 14934
Joined: 06 May 2010, 10:51

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Kolohe »

Highway wrote:Bridges usually don't fail quickly and spectacularly . They fail slowly and boringly, and most highway departments know what to look for.
It's pretty frickin epic when they do, though.
[youtube]j-zczJXSxnw[/youtube]
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
User avatar
D.A. Ridgely
Posts: 21265
Joined: 26 Apr 2010, 17:09
Location: The Other Side

Re: Infrastructure

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

As far as I can tell, most of the stimulus money was spent on infrastructure, which is one reason I'm not more angry about it than I am.

And, by the way, sixty-five years is long enough for most of Europe's infrastructure to be long in the tooth, too. Germany has kept up with the times and, on some things, so has France. But aside from their equivalents of our Interstate Highway system, European roads are nothing to brag about. They're narrow, often without any shoulder at all and, worse yet, filled with drivers from places like Italy.

And we use a shit-ton more electricity and water and sewerage and such per capita than just about anywhere else on Earth.

Finally, of course, the real answer is Demand Kurv!
User avatar
Jennifer
Posts: 26892
Joined: 28 Apr 2010, 14:03

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jennifer »

Ayn_Randian wrote: Also, it seems that the transit fetishists blocked the Tappan Zee replacement, but that is just from a google search on the relevant news. There is probably more to it than that.
Which is another problem: NIMBYism, as mentioned before, and stupid special interests. The two-week blackout in Connecticut, for example: some of it was indeed thre power companies' fault, but a lot of blame also went to people who didn't want their gorgeous trees trimmed back so as not to have heavy branches directly above power lines. And any major long-term infrastructure project you can name which would undeniably pay off in the long run will be derailed in the short run, either by people who don't want construction in their neighborhood, or people who insist on putting their special things on it ....
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
User avatar
Jasper
Posts: 3588
Joined: 27 Apr 2010, 07:56
Location: Newyorkachusetts

Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jasper »

D.A. Ridgely wrote:As far as I can tell, most of the stimulus money was spent on infrastructure, which is one reason I'm not more angry about it than I am.
There's a decent stretch of the Merritt Parkway and Rt. 25 in my town that's being upgraded thanks to TARP funds.
Post Reply