A fool's paradise: America's aging infrastructure and the Midwest floods

Bridges fall down. Muskrats destroy levies. Steam pipes blow up.

America's aging infrastructure has been making headlines since Katrina. Minnesota came into the frame with the bridge collapse. Now it's the floods.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated the cost of modernizing U.S. infrastructure at roughly $1 trillion--and that's above and beyond current spending levels to modernize its infrastructure.

The group says its estimate is outdated, writes Reuters' Andrew Stern, "and does not count the price of new roads, rails, and sewers required by a growing population, nor the cost to repair damage inflicted by the recent Midwest floods."

Barack Obama has proposed a fund for infrastructure projects using money not spent on Iraq. But that only works if Obama gets us out of Iraq.

More from Stern's piece:

Each need sounds dire: new wastewater treatment so sewage does not taint the same waterways that supply drinking water; repairs or replacements for thousands of corroded bridges; new and repaired dams and levees that will not fail; and upgrades to airports and air traffic control.

"We need profound changes," said engineer Kumares Sinha of Purdue University. "We can't live in a fool's paradise."

...priorities will emerge as Midwest floodwaters recede. People in some small towns in Indiana and Illinois are still virtually cut off because of flooded or damaged roads, officials said. Bridges that were already suspect received a battering from surging floodwaters, requiring thorough inspections. Scores of river levees were overtopped or gave way, while others were weakened and may need replacing, said Timothy Kusky, a flood expert at Saint Louis University.

A repeat of the flooding is likely because climate change will make the Midwest wetter in the next 30 years, he said.

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