B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘infrastructure’ tag

Investment in Science Helps A Nation

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Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds
Transitive Nightfall of Diamonds

The United States should spend less on building aircraft carriers, less on tax breaks for the wealthy, and for corporations like General Electric and ExxonMobil and more on projects like this:

A rocket that shot skyward from the Gobi Desert early Tuesday is expected to propel China to the forefront of one of science’s most challenging fields.

It also is set to launch Beijing far ahead of its global rivals in the drive to acquire a highly coveted asset in the age of cyberespionage: hack-proof communications.

Aboard the Micius satellite is encryption technology that, if successful, could propel China to the forefront of hack-proof communications. Professor Hoi Fung Chau of Hong Kong University explains how quantum physics can be used to frustrate hackers. State media said China sent the world’s first quantum-communications satellite into orbit from a launch center in Inner Mongolia about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday. Five years in the making, the project is being closely watched in global scientific and security circles.

The quantum program is the latest part of China’s multibillion-dollar strategy over the past two decades to draw even with or surpass the West in hard-sciences research.

“There’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race,” said Nicolas Gisin, a professor and quantum physicist at the University of Geneva. “It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realize them.”

Scientists in the U.S., Europe, Japan and elsewhere are rushing to exploit the strange and potentially powerful properties of subatomic particles, but few with as much state support as those in China, researchers say. Quantum technology is a top strategic focus in the country’s five-year economic development plan, released in March.

Beijing hasn’t disclosed how much money it has allocated to quantum research or to building the 1,400-pound satellite. But funding for basic research, which includes quantum physics, was $101 billion in 2015, up from $1.9 billion in 2005.

U.S. federal funding for quantum research is about $200 million a year, according to a congressional report in July by a group of science, defense, intelligence and other officials. 

It said development of quantum science would “enhance U.S. national security,” but said fluctuations in funding had set back progress.

 

(click here to continue reading China’s Latest Leap Forward Isn’t Just Great—It’s Quantum – WSJ.)

In other words, Congressional disfunction, partisanship and misguided priorities are stymieing the United States. 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 16th, 2016 at 9:44 am

Posted in government,science

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The big sell: Making people care about infrastructure repair

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Waiting for a Rainy Day
Waiting for a Rainy Day

Continuing on the theme of the day, Mary Wisniewski writes:

In comic book movies, transportation infrastructure problems are easy to spot.

Bridges fall. Asphalt shatters. And unless Ironman funds the repairs out of his personal fortune, big public debt issues are ahead.

In real life, damage to roads and rails tends to be gradual, though ultimately just as ruinous to regional well-being.

With a new Illinois capital program delayed as the state goes 11 months without a budget, transit leaders have been sounding the alarm in both Washington, D.C., and Springfield about the dangers of waiting too long to invest in infrastructure. Business, labor and transit leaders will ramp up discussion nationwide Monday for the start of the thrillingly named Infrastructure Week.

It’s a tough sell — roads, buses and trains seem to work just fine until they don’t, and politicians don’t like to raise gas taxes or other user fees. Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Leanne Redden admits that funding for bridges, signals and tunnels is not a sexy topic, but it’s crucial to keep the system going the way it should.

(click here to continue reading The big sell: Making people care about infrastructure repair – Chicago Tribune.)

Nothing Can Go Wrong With the Blues
Nothing Can Go Wrong With the Blues

Infrastructure is ignored until there is a crisis, alternatively, we could invest in the country and its workers before disaster strikes. Or money gets left unspent because Governor Rauner has a different agenda…

For the Chicago Transit Authority, for example, the lack of state capital funding has meant $1 billion in federal money may get left on the table. The passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act last year made federal dollars available, but state matches are needed to access them.

“A capital program would be very helpful, or else those funds could be put at risk,” CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. said. He said the money is needed for projects like the Red and Purple Line modernization, and rail and right of way improvements to prevent slow zones.

CTA needs a total of $13 billion in capital spending over the next decade to get the system in a state of good repair, Carter said.

Metra needs $11.7 billion in capital funding over the next 10 years. Because that’s a tall order, the board has made two programs top priorities — positive train control, a federally mandated computerized system to prevent train collisions, and new or rehabbed rolling stock. That would include 367 new railcars. (The agency currently has funding for 10.)

Some of Metra’s railcars are 63 years old. “They’re eligible for Medicare in a couple of years,” joked Metra CEO Don Orseno ruefully.

Besides new cars and locomotives, Orseno said Metra needs a better maintenance schedule for its old ones. Walking around a big, barnlike rail repair facility on 49th Street last week, Orseno and Metra capital projects manager Lexie Walker showed how cars are stripped down and rebuilt — with new floors, seats, toilets, air conditioning, outlets for plugging in laptops and wheelchairs, plus new wheels and brakes.

The Poem Remained Too Short
The Poem Remained Too Short

What about roads, you ask? They are as neglected, with no positive news forthcoming:

[Illinois] cannot afford to keep up the roads it has now. One of the pressing needs for the Illinois Department of Transportation is a rebuild of the aging and congested Eisenhower Expressway, similar to the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan in 2007, said Peter Skosey, executive vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit focused on regional growth.

“Money for that project isn’t even on the radar,” Skosey said.

He noted that no system is going to be in perfect shape all the time — it’s like your house, you want to keep it in a state of at least 90 percent repair, with a few projects on a to-do list. But Illinois’ state of repair is currently below 80 percent and could drop below 60 percent in the next five years, Skosey said.

Skosey noted that closed roads and bridges lead to gridlock, which already costs the region $7 billion a year. On an individual level, bad roads cost the average Illinois driver $400 to $800 a year in car repairs.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 17th, 2016 at 9:10 pm

The $3,400 Infrastructure Tax You’re Paying

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North Winds They Blow
North Winds They Blow

Speaking of infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers have released their latest “Failure To Act” report, and predictably, it isn’t the lead story in corporate media’s front pages and opening moments. But it should be, because we all pay the costs affiliated with ignoring our infrastructure deficiencies…

Isiah J. Poole writes:

But something that is costing each American family on average $3,400 a year is worth at least a few minutes of discussion – especially in the context of this Trump-besotted presidential campaign.

That is the money that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) said in its latest “Failure to Act” report that each US household is losing “each year in disposable income due to infrastructure deficiencies.”

Not adequately investing in infrastructure is costing the economy more than three times more than what it would cost to bring these systems up to a state of good repair. Seen another way, each family pays a $3,400 annual tax for what federal, state and local governments don’t spend to properly maintain and expand our transportation, water and electricity networks.

Closing the investment gap between what we’re spending now on the range of infrastructure needs – from roads and bridges to airports and waterways – and what we should be spending between now and 2025 would take about $1.4 trillion, the ASCE says. The cost of not spending that money, according to the ASCE? Almost $4 trillion. With that loss comes the loss of 2.5 million jobs.

Likewise, consider the plight of people who rely on public transportation. According to the report, more than 40 percent of buses and 25 percent of rail cars are in marginal or poor condition. The average transit bus has been on the road since Bill Clinton was president. Washington’s Metro system, whose recent troubles have gotten national attention, is suffering a lot of self-inflicted wounds, but one of its problems is that it is still running cars that were on the system when it opened in 1976.

(click here to continue reading The $3,400 ‘Tax’ You’re Paying That the Media Just Ignored – BillMoyers.com.)

Talking About My Generation
Talking About My Generation.

from the ASCE report (which you can download in PDF form if you are curious or sanguine):

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes The Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which grades the current state of national infrastructure categories on a scale of A through F.

Since 1998, America’s infrastructure has earned persistent D averages, and the failure to close the investment gap with needed maintenance and improvements has continued. When the next Report Card for America’s Infrastructure is released in 2017, it will provide an updated look at the state of our infrastructure conditions, but the larger question at stake is the implication of D+ infrastructure on America’s economic future.

The Failure to Act report series answers this key question — how does the nation’s failure to act to improve the condition of U.S. infrastructure systems affect the nation’s economic performance? In 2011 and 2012, ASCE released four Failure to Act reports in a series covering 10 infrastructure sectors that are critical to the economic prosperity of the U.S.

These reports were followed by a fifth, comprehensive final report, Failure to Act: The Impact of Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future, which addressed the aggregate economic impact of failing to act in more than one sector. The purpose was to provide an aggregate analysis of the economic implications for the U.S. of continuing its current investment trends in multiple infrastructure categories. Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future is an update to the Failure to Act comprehensive report; it addresses the current infrastructure gaps between today’s needs and investment and how they will affect the future productivity of industries, national competitiveness, and future costs to households.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 17th, 2016 at 7:35 pm

Posted in government

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US Should Speed Digital Infrastructure Deployment

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Borrowed Time
Borrowed Time

We talk about infrastructure a lot on this humble blog, but conceptually, the word infrastructure encompasses so much more than just sewer pipes and bridges. Updated electric grids, high speed internet access for all, and other digital infrastructures are key to a prosperous future, and our current government clings to out-dated models and resists change.

The U.S. needs to embed digital technologies into existing infrastructure to take advantage of new economic opportunities, a tech industry think tank said Monday, but outdated regulations, security concerns, a lack of public funding and a small pool of tech-savvy workers may hinder progress.

More digital infrastructure, including “hybridized” infrastructure that involves some mix of physical and digital features, can ultimately cut costs, create jobs and improve overall quality of life, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said in a recent report. Smart water meters, for example, could be used to measure consumption and quality while using real-time data processing to help utilities detect leaks before they happen.

New technologies can also be applied to roads, planes, trains and other systems used to transport goods, people and information. Digital roadway infrastructure, including electronic toll collection and smart traffic lights, could help reduce congestion and fuel consumption and increase travel speeds, boosting overall productivity. It could also enable vehicle-to-infrastructure communications as driverless cars and other autonomous vehicles hit the road.

The foundation made a number of recommendations for policymakers, including:

  • Policymakers should create ‘digital-friendly’ regulations. Current policies are often characterized by overlapping mandates and conflicting goals, ITIF said. And while deployment of some smart meters has increased, governments haven’t yet approved them to use dynamic pricing or other features. “There is a need to modernize existing regulations to reflect significant changes in technology advances and leading industry practices.”
  • Each state and federal agency that influences infrastructure should create a strategy for speeding the transition to digital infrastructures.
  • Increase funding. ITIF suggests Congress enact a “Cement & Chips” funding approach that directs no less than 5% – or about $2.5 billion — of the Highway Trust Fund allocated to states to be devoted to digital infrastructure projects. National governments also need to “take a proactive role in creating national data and software systems that can easily be used across the nation,” the report said.
  • Privacy and security concerns shouldn’t slow deployments. “Rather government should work with the private sector to ensure that public policies support privacy and security in ways that enable innovation” and create value for society.

(click here to continue reading US Should Speed Digital Infrastructure Deployment, Think Tank Says – CIO Journal. – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 17th, 2016 at 11:33 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

America And Lead Poisoned Water

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When Thinking Leads To The Unthinkable
When Thinking Leads To The Unthinkable…

Scary, and even more reason we should dial back our military adventures, and instead invest in our infrastructure lest we kill ourselves…

“Lead in Flint is the tip of the iceberg,” notes Dr. Richard J. Jackson, former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Flint is a teachable moment for America.”

In Flint, 4.9 percent of children tested for lead turned out to have elevated levels. That’s inexcusable. But in 2014 in New York State outside of New York City, the figure was 6.7 percent. In Pennsylvania, 8.5 percent. On the west side of Detroit, one-fifth of the children tested in 2014 had lead poisoning. In Iowa for 2012, the most recent year available, an astonishing 32 percent of children tested had elevated lead levels. (I calculated most of these numbers from C.D.C. data.)

Across America, 535,000 children ages 1 through 5 suffer lead poisoning, by C.D.C. estimates.

“We are indeed all Flint,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor of preventive medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Lead poisoning continues to be a silent epidemic in the United States.”

(click here to continue reading America Is Flint – The New York Times.)

Declining Issues
Declining Issues

and this short-sighted austerity by Congress is just sickening:

Some 24 million homes in America have deteriorated lead paint, of which occupants are often unaware. If a toddler regularly breathes lead-contaminated dust, or sucks a finger that has touched the dust, that child may suffer lifelong brain damage.

Yet anti-lead programs have been dismantled in recent years because in 2012 Congress slashed the funding for lead programs at the C.D.C. by 93 percent. After an outcry, some money was restored, but even now these lead programs have only a bit more than half the funding they once had.

 Reverse Osmosis Water Filter

I’ve owned a reverse osmosis water filtration system for a long time, but it only cleans my drinking/cooking water, not the water in my entire house. How about you?

If it is not possible or cost-effective to remove the lead source, flushing the water system before using the water for drinking or cooking may be an option. Any time a particular faucet has not been used for several hours (approximately 6 or more), you can flush the system by running the water for about 1-2 minutes or until the water becomes as cold as it will get. Flush each faucet individually before using the water for drinking or cooking. You can use the water flushed from the tap to water plants, wash dishes or clothing, or clean. Avoid cooking with or drinking hot tap water because hot water dissolves lead more readily than cold water does. Do not use hot tap water to make cereals, drinks or mix baby formula. You may draw cold water after flushing the tap and then heat it if needed.

You may also wish to consider water treatment methods such as reverse osmosis, distillation, and carbon filters specially designed to remove lead. Typically these methods are used to treat water at only one faucet. Contact your local health department for recommended procedures. If you want to know more about these filters, please contact NSF International, an organization for public health and safety through standards development, product certification, education, and risk management. Remember to have your well water tested regularly, at least once a year, to make sure the problem is controlled.

(click here to continue reading CDC – Lead and Drinking Water from Private Wells – Wells – Private Water Systems – Drinking Water – Healthy Water.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2016 at 11:53 am

Posted in government,health

Tagged with ,

America’s Future Is A Future of Failing Infrastructure

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Like An Approaching Train
Like An Approaching Train…

America needs the political willpower to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and soon. Tax cuts for the wealthy don’t help when you need to replace lead pipes serving drinking water, nor do tax breaks for wealthy corporations help rebuild bridges about to collapse.

The L-pocalypse is coming, the early effects of the L-pocalypse is here. The New York City subway train is the most direct route between Brooklyn and Manhattan, servicing some 300,000 people every day. News recently leaked that the city’s transit authority, the MTA, is considering shutting the train down as early as 2017 for between one and three years to repair floodwater damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. That prospect understandably has many of those who live, work, or own businesses in north Brooklyn quite upset; Thursday’s meeting of the “L Train Coalition” at Brooklyn Bowl made clear that the dialogue between concerned citizens, elected leaders, and the MTA is going to be contentious, at best.

The upcoming plight of a gentrified neighborhood in New York City is mainly a local story, sure, but as infrastructure crumbles around the United States, pollution worsens, and as climate change brings us ever-increasing and severe natural disasters, cities around the country are going to be faced with very expensive problems for which there are no good solutions.

Surely, similar town hall meetings are playing out around the country, where residents are upset that, through a combination of underfunding, tax cuts, climate change, and simple aging, services that are taken for granted such as functioning roads, subway systems, and lead-free drinking water are no longer a given.

(click here to continue reading Williamsburg’s Angry Town Hall Meetings Are the Future of Failing Infrastructure | Motherboard.)

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky
A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

and in microcosm: the water infrastructure of Flint, MI:

Poor political decisions caused the crisis, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if the lead pipes weren’t there to begin with. The current solution is a stopgap—spiking the water supply with an anticorrosive chemical. But if the powers that be want to eliminate the risk completely, they will ultimately have to replace all the lead plumbing. A September estimate, only recently released by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, puts the cost of replacing all the lead pipes in Flint at $60 million. And the project will take 15 years.

The basic challenge: dig up several thousand miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies. Oh, for Pete’s sake. People can only take bottled water baths for so long. “I don’t understand, are they only going to fix four pipes a day?” says Harold Harrington, business manager of Flint’s plumber’s union, the United Association Local 370. He says with the right kind of investment, the city—or state, or whoever ends up taking responsibility—could move a lot faster.

Most of the corroded pipes in Flint—20,000 to 25,000 in total—are what is known as service lines. These are one inch in diameter, and connect homes to the larger, main pipes running under the middles of streets. (The mains are cast iron.) Because Flint is in Michigan, and Michigan is a very cold place, the service lines have to be buried about three and a half feet deep, below the frost line. “But most of the main pipes are between five to seven feet deep, so the service lines are at a similar depth,” says Martin Kaufman, a geographer at the University of Michigan-Flint. So that’s the basic challenge: dig up several hundred miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies.

Before calling in the backhoes, somebody needs to figure out where all those pipes are buried. Not just which houses they’re in, either. Remember, the pipes are an inch wide, and buried under roads, sidewalks, and front lawns, beneath lattices of cables, fiber optic wires, and gas lines. Digging in the wrong place would be both dangerous and expensive. Kaufman is one of those in charge of figuring out where all the lead pipes are buried, but the pipelayers of yore didn’t do him many favors. “The recordkeeping of the city is not very good,” he says. “They kept information on three by five index cards, a lot of which are smeared.” The only definite way to check if a pipe is lead or not is to scrape the pipe’s interior as it comes into the house. “If the residue is gray and nonmagnetic, it is lead,” he says.

Replacing a typical service line takes three people. “You need an operator to run the equipment, one guy hand digging to make sure you don’t get into any other utilities, and another guy getting the floor busted out in the basement,” says Harrington. As long as they don’t run into any problems, the whole job should take the team about half a day. Harrington estimates that he could reasonably call in about 20 such teams to work full time until the job is done. Assuming the rate is forty pipes a day, roughly 249 days a year (nights and weekends, y’all), the Flint plumber’s militia could bang the job out in just over two years.

Harrington says digging up and replacing a forty foot length of lead pipe costs around $3,000. This does not take into account externalities like repaving streets and sidewalks, fixing any damage done to the home, and resodding lawns. Multiply $3,000 by 20,000 pipes and you get $60 million dollars—which suggests that the figure quoted in Michigan governor Snyder’s email is probably a lowball.

(click here to continue reading Here’s How Hard It Will Be to Unpoison Flint’s Water | WIRED.)

Water Pumping Station
Water Pumping Station

How many communities in America need new water lines? Nobody is quite sure, but it is a lot. 

It’s a problem that’s much bigger than Flint: there are millions of lead pipes all across America, putting children at risk of stunted growth, brain damage and a lifetime of diminished potential. Just this week, residents of Sebring, a town of 8,000 in rural Ohio, were told not to touch their tap water out of lead fears similar to Flint’s.

“This is a situation that has the potential to occur in however many places around the country there are lead pipes,” Jerry Paulson, emeritus professor of pediatrics and environmental health at George Washington University, said in an interview. “Unless and until those pipes are removed, those communities are at some degree of risk.”

Roughly 10 million American homes and buildings receive water from service lines that are at least partially lead, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Service lines are the pipes connecting water mains to people’s houses. Lead ones are mostly found in the Midwest and Northeast.

Despite the life-altering consequences of lead poisoning, there is no national plan to get rid of those pipes. A top reason for continuing to use lead service lines instead of immediately digging them up is that utilities can treat water so it forms a coating on the interior of the pipes — a corrosion barrier that helps prevent lead particles from dislodging and traveling to your faucet. But if the water chemistry changes, the corrosion controls can fail. 

(click here to continue reading Lots Of Cities Have The Same Lead Pipes That Poisoned Flint.)

What Infrastructure Crisis?
What Infrastructure Crisis?

In the old, can-do America, both political parties would agree that fixing dilapidated infrastructure would be a good national goal, and would seek consensus on how to ramp up the work force and financing for the project. In the sad, tired America of the 21st C.E., seemingly only Bernie Sanders even brings the topic up. Consider all the good paying jobs, in communities all around the country, that would benefit from fixing roads, bridges, sewer lines, power grids, water lines, bullet trains, and so on and so forth. Why is it a partisan struggle to even discuss the future? Sure, we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, or even more, but so what? Do Wall Street corporations and the oil industry really need more tax breaks to remain in business? 

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 7:18 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

Electric concrete to melt snow faster

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Intensely Secular
Intensely Secular (snow plow)

Speaking of infrastructure improvements:

Dr. Chris Tuan, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his team of researchers have developed a concrete mixture prototype that melts away falling snow and ice by conducting electricity.  

Steel rods beneath the concrete’s surface connect to electrodes, which connect to a 120-volt AC power source.

Carbon byproducts from coal mining and steel shavings from industrial waste make up only 20 percent of the otherwise typical concrete mixture, but the conductivity is strong enough to clear the surface. 

Still, it’s not cheap: Tuan’s concrete runs $300 per cubic yard, compared to $120 per cubic yard of regular concrete.

But the typical salt and de-icing chemicals used on streets can corrode concrete and lead to potholes. Tuan said this makes his conductive concrete an even more attractive option, with a greater upfront price tag offsetting later maintenance and operating costs.

“Bridges always freeze up first, because they’re exposed to the elements on top and bottom,” Tuan told UNL Today. “It’s not cost-effective to build entire roadways using conducive concrete, but you can use it at certain locations where you always get ice or have potholes.”

“Statistics indicate that 10 to 15 percent of all roadway accidents are directly related to weather conditions,” Tuan explains in his 2008 analysis of the bridge study. “This percentage alone represents thousands of human injuries and deaths and millions of dollars in property damage annually … The conductive concrete deicing technology is readily available for implementation at accident-prone areas such as bridge overpasses, exit ramps, airport runways, street intersections, sidewalks and driveways.” 

(click here to continue reading Electric concrete to melt snow faster – Business Insider.)

Cold Winter Streets
Cold Winter Streets

also, there are environmental advantages to using less de-icing materials:

Conductive concrete can alleviate environmental damage by reducing the amount of salt and chemicals dispersed on roads and sidewalks after storms. Melting snow and ice carries deicing chemicals into local waterways and nearby soils, which in turn can slow plant growth and attract animals into dangerous roadways.   

Cool. Err, well, interesting…

Scary
Scary snow plow.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Flint Water Crisis Shines Light on Lead Pipes Across US

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Sewer Improvement Project - Kinzie
Sewer Improvement Project.

Long time readers of this blog know we feel strongly that America would have much better served if we had invested money in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure instead of invading Iraq. American taxpayers spent trillions of dollars, basically pissed away in the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, most of which did America no good. I guess if you were a defense contractor, you did ok, replenishing supplies of jet fuel, bullets and bombs for the military, but wouldn’t that money have been better spent fixing bridges, water pipes, sewer pipes and the like in places taxpayers live in?

The water crisis in Flint, Mich., has exposed the danger that lead could potentially leach into the drinking water of millions of Americans, showing what can go wrong if aging infrastructure isn’t properly monitored and maintained.

Lead is common in pipes across the country, mostly in service lines linking street pipes to people’s homes. Millions of pipes now in use were installed well before 1986, when federal law banned lead pipes and solder, and some date back to the 1800s.

The price tag just to dig up and replace as many as eight million lead service lines into homes and businesses could easily reach tens of billions of dollars. The task is complicated by the fact that utilities and cities often don’t know where such lines are buried. And tens of millions of other water lines have lead solder or fixtures that also can contaminate drinking water.

Nationwide, lead solder that seals pipes and joints exists in about 81 million homes, or roughly two-thirds of households, and leaded brass fixtures, another source of contamination, are in the vast majority of homes, said Marc Edwards, an environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech.

“While Flint is an outlier, it confirms everything that we have been speaking out against for the last 10 years,” said Mr. Edwards, who tested Flint drinking water samples last summer, revealing high lead levels.

Experts generally agree that the lead service lines that connect water mains to homes are a leading culprit for lead contamination in water and need to be removed.

“It’s going to be a huge financial challenge,” said G. Tracy Mehan III, executive director for governmental affairs at American Water Works Association, a trade group representing 4,000 utilities across the U.S., not including Flint’s. Just 2% of water utilities surveyed by the group last year said they had all the financial resources to cover future pipeline upgrades, which would include replacing lead pipes and fixtures.

Replacing Flint’s lead lines, solder and joints could take 15 years and $60 million, according to a September estimate by an aide to Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, the governor said it was too soon to estimate the cost.

(click here to continue reading Flint Water Crisis Shines Light on Lead Pipes Across U.S. – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 11:27 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

Keystone XL Pipeline and Carbon Keynesianism

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Twists and Turns
Twists and Turns.

During the very first week of the 114th Congress, the new agenda was made clear: Bills to end the Affordable Care Act, to restrict abortion rights, to stop Obama’s immigration plan, and a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

New Approved Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Paul Krugman laughs, and points out the absurdity of the GOP’s Carbon Keynesianism…

It should come as no surprise that the very first move of the new Republican Senate is an attempt to push President Obama into approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian tar sands. After all, debts must be paid, and the oil and gas industry — which gave 87 percent of its 2014 campaign contributions to the G.O.P. — expects to be rewarded for its support.

Building Keystone XL could slightly increase U.S. employment. In fact, it might replace almost 5 percent of the jobs America has lost because of destructive cuts in federal spending, which were in turn the direct result of Republican blackmail over the debt ceiling.

Oh, and don’t tell me that the cases are completely different. You can’t consistently claim that pipeline spending creates jobs while government spending doesn’t.

Consider, for example, the case of military spending. When it comes to possible cuts in defense contracts, politicians who loudly proclaim that every dollar the government spends comes at the expense of the private sector suddenly begin talking about all the jobs that will be destroyed. They even begin talking about the multiplier effect, as reduced spending by defense workers leads to job losses in other industries. This is the phenomenon former Representative Barney Frank dubbed “weaponized Keynesianism.”

And the argument being made for Keystone XL is very similar; call it “carbonized Keynesianism.” Yes, approving the pipeline would mobilize some money that would otherwise have sat idle, and in so doing create some jobs — 42,000 during the construction phase, according to the most widely cited estimate. (Once completed, the pipeline would employ only a few dozen workers.) But government spending on roads, bridges and schools would do the same thing.

And the job gains from the pipeline would, as I said, be only a tiny fraction — less than 5 percent — of the job losses from sequestration, which in turn are only part of the damage done by spending cuts in general. If Mr. McConnell and company really believe that we need more spending to create jobs, why not support a push to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure?

So what should be done about Keystone XL? If you believe that it would be environmentally damaging — which I do — then you should be against it, and you should ignore the claims about job creation. The numbers being thrown around are tiny compared with the country’s overall work force.

(click here to continue reading For the Love of Carbon – NYTimes.com.)


The worship of Mammon” by Evelyn De Morgan[1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Infrastructure improvement? Blasphemy! Spending money to fix bridges, roads, water supply pipes, commuter rails – that’s Socialism! But building a massive pipeline to ship oil from Canada to China via the Gulf of Mexico is God’s commandment. If you consider Mammon a God that is…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2015 at 9:27 am

Bad U.S. roads force just in time manufacturers to plan for just in case

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And Have You Traveled Very Far Today?
And Have You Traveled Very Far Today?

Here is another reason why Republican-friendly, Republican-leaning, and straight-out Republican corporations are not served by the current Tea Party ascendency. Government does have a purpose, does need a tax base, or else common good tasks like maintaining roads and other infrastructure cannot be performed. If corporations such as the ones mentioned in the James Kelleher, Reuters article quoted below were smart, they’d put their political capital to work throwing out the Tea Party wing of the GOP.

Companies like Whirlpool and Caterpillar are making costly additions to their otherwise sinewy supply chains to compensate for aging U.S. roads that are too potholed and congested for “just in time” delivery.

Some opt to keep more trucks and inventory on the road. Others are leasing huge “just in case” warehouses and guarded parking lots on the edges of big cities. All that activity raises costs, which are expected to increase even more if roads are allowed to deteriorate further and an improving economy boosts traffic.

Whirlpool, for instance, has set up a network of secure drop lots outside Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. A washing machine that used to go from regional distribution center to local distribution center to customer in one day now sits overnight in a parking lot.

It “adds an extra day of lead time, which means extra inventory,” said Whirlpool Corp logistics chief Michelle VanderMeer.

Then there are the parking lots and the guards. “That’s real physical infrastructure and security that we have to pay for,” she said. “We’d rather be investing our money elsewhere,” she added, declining to estimate Whirlpool’s expenses.

Overall, U.S. companies face billions of dollars in costs due to the limitations of the creaking, overcrowded transportation network, which earned a D+ grade in the most recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimates that road congestion alone costs shippers $27 billion a year – and that is only the value of wasted driver time and extra fuel.

Outside Chicago, Panasonic Corp, Ingram Micro and Owens & Minor have all leased spaces in recent years to help take congestion-related variability out of their supply chains

(click here to continue reading Bad U.S. roads force just in time manufacturers to plan for ‘just in case’ | Reuters.)

East To Dan Ryan Expy
East To Dan Ryan Expy

for instance, do you think the mouth-breathers in Congress are going to raise the gas tax anytime soon? What kind of odds would you give? A million to one? or a billion to one?

Manufacturers are lobbying Congress to approve new repair funds next year, with low expectations. The Highway Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge repairs, narrowly avoided insolvency this summer when lawmakers approved funding through May.

The current gas tax which funds repairs raises $40 billion annually and has not been raised in two decades. There is little appetite in Washington, D.C to raise the gas tax to bring in the $170 billion the Federal Highway Administration estimates is needed annually to improve roads.

So if you do the math, every year, we have a $120,000,000,000 budget shortfall for roads and bridges. Every year! Even if you discount the $170 Billion number by a bit, because everyone wants a bigger budget, there still is a huge gap between actual money and required money. How long can this go on before the problem gets so bad we turn the corner into a Mad Max type society? But hey, ISIS is an existential threat, so by all means, piss our tax money on the sands of the Middle East instead of on the roads of Iowa and Illinois…

Written by Seth Anderson

October 1st, 2014 at 8:03 am

Government Disaster Relief Should Be Automatic

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Sadly, the idea that government is a problem has consumed American politics to the point that it is ridiculous. Politicians decry the very job they are requesting, then once in office, continue the dismantling of the government from the inside, defunding agencies, reducing government income, and so on. This is often a right wing concept, unfortunately, not exclusively. The hypocrisy is more rank when natural disaster relief becomes a television talking point, such as when enemies of the civilized world like Senator Tom Coburn demand national spending cuts to offset Oklahoma disaster relief, but when this proved to be unpopular with his fellow Senators1, then there were mealy-mouthed phrases from co-conspirator Senator James Inhofe about how Hurricane Sandy relief was filled with pork, and relief for Oklahoma is totally, totally different. 

Remember a day when people became politicians to help their nation? Not line their pockets and their friends pockets?2

Talk about taking the country back, I’d like to take the government away from those who would destroy it. The entire point of having a civilization is to collectivize responsibility, ideally with consent of the governed. Disaster relief, maintaing sewage systems, roads, educating our kids, parks, and so on, paid for with voluntarily collected taxes from all of us. The government should be responsible for more than just fielding a military and monitoring women’s uteruses. 

I Doubt That Is True
I Doubt That Is True

David Sirota writes:

It all suggests that the anti-government zeitgeist in America has become so powerful that public officials now feel compelled to downplay the public sector for fear of being tarred and feathered as a socialist, a Marxist or an opportunist unduly “politicizing” a tragedy.

Of course, avoiding a discussion of the government’s role at times like these is, unto itself, a politicized decision — one promoting the illusion that we don’t need government. And no matter how much anti-government conservatives deny it, that is an illusion.

Think about it: When you find yourself riveted by disaster response coverage on television, what you are really watching underneath all the graphics and breathless punditry is footage of government in action.

Think about it: Whether dealing with a hurricane on the East Coast, a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas or a tornado in Oklahoma, government remains the best, most powerful and most reliable defender against and responder to large-scale emergencies.

Think about it: For every headline-grabbing story of a private citizen rescuing another individual, there are scores of never-told stories of police officers, firefighters, first responders, public school teachers, government-created warning systems, public hospitals and emergency management agencies saving hundreds of lives and/or rebuilding whole communities. Those stories, in fact, are rarely told because for all the petulant anti-government whining that dominates American politics, we’ve come to so expect such a strong public sector response that it’s barely even considered newsworthy.

That expectation, by the way, is not something to lament.

(click here to continue reading There’s no substitute for government disaster relief – Salon.com.)

Steve Benen adds:

It’s worth emphasizing that there may not be a fight over disaster relief because a congressional bill may ultimately be unnecessary — FEMA has not yet exhausted its reserves.

But if a funding bill is necessary, there appears to be little appetite for another political fight like the last one.

Here’s hoping we’ll see a return to traditional American norms when it comes to post-disaster aid. For generations, Congress didn’t fight over offsets in the wake of a crisis, it simply moved to help American communities in their time of need. That changed after Republicans took control of the House in 2010, but given GOP reactions yesterday, we may be seeing the first signs that the party is rethinking the utility of its posture.

(click here to continue reading Steering clear of another disaster-relief fight – The Maddow Blog.)

Division Street Bridge
Division Street Bridge

We’ve written for years about America’s politicians puzzling reluctance to invest in infrastructure repair. Instead of forcing ExxonMobil or General Electric or Apple to pay taxes, Washington diddles, and the infrastructure continues to decay. I guess if a bridge collapsed outside of Tulsa, perhaps some of our nation’s D grade bridges could get repaired. Well, at least those in that state. Maybe if the bridge that collapsed was in Virginia, the government might pay attention. Or not. 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, Illinois’s Report Card Grade is a D+, although our bridges are a C+. 

  • 2,311 of the 26,514 bridges in Illinois (8.7%) are considered structurally deficient.
  • 1,976 of the 26,514 bridges in Illinois (7.5%) are considered functionally obsolete.
  • Illinois received $115.8 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Fund in FY2011.

How’s your state rank?

Footnotes:
  1. remember the Hurrican Sandy relief fiasco? The Republicans do []
  2. Ok, this probably rarely happened, even in the “ole” days []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 24th, 2013 at 9:41 am

Bill Clinton: Infrastructure Bank and BUILD Act

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Halfway To Discontent
Halfway To Discontent

Charles Pierce and Mark Warren interview Bill Clinton, well worth a read. I had many disagreements with President Clinton, but I admire his political savvy and intelligence.

I like this idea:

ESQUIRE: Where’s the demand from outside, though? Where are the people insisting, “Hey, my bridge is falling down, and ‘We can’t afford to fix it’ is not a good enough answer for me. And if you can’t come up with a better one, then you’re back in the private sector”?

CLINTON: One of the things that I think should be done is the infrastructure bill that Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Kerry proposed, which sets up an infrastructure bank which would be seeded with U. S. taxpayers’ money, but it would be open to investors. Like, you and I could buy a $1,000 infrastructure bond, or the Chinese sovereign wealth fund, Saudi sovereign wealth fund, anybody could invest in it, and the returns on infrastructure are significant enough that in an uncertain stock market, I think you could get a lot of private capital.

And then it would be really interesting, it’d be a great opportunity — all this dispute about the one tenth of 1 percent of America that Paul Krugman’s always talking about. I believe that people of my income group should pay more, and I explained why, but that won’t necessarily lift overall wage levels. To do that, you’ve gotta have more jobs, a tighter labor market, different job mix. This is one way that wealthy Americans could really contribute. They could put hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure bank, be a good investment for them, for their children, for their grandchildren, and they would directly contribute to revitalizing a big sector of middle-class wages in America and making our country more productive, so that we could create more opportunity. But I think that we could get a lot of grassroots support from, like, local chambers of commerce and other things if they understood exactly how this infrastructure bank would work. I hope that the president will make more of this, and I wouldn’t be as sure as everyone is now that nothing will be done next year. If we get this done, then I think he ought to challenge them to make a deal on corporate taxes and establishing the infrastructure bank that can take private capital, and you can make some slice of that deal repatriating a bunch of that money that’s overseas now at a lower tax rate, and put that money directly in the infrastructure bank. That’s the federal government’s contribution, and then open it up for other investment. And I think, you know, you might have $100 billion by the time you get done — that could put people to work right away.

(click here to continue reading Print – Bill Clinton: Someone We Can All Agree On – Esquire.)

Is this privatization? or just investment. If it is the latter, I’m for it. Our national infrastructure is crumbling, and the Republicans, for the most part, seem to be pleased about this. Repairing bridges, water mains and the like is also an employment boon – you can’t outsource that kind of work so easily.

Decline and Fall of Empire
Decline and Fall of Empire

I had never heard of this concept, turns out Senators John Kerry and Kay Bailey Hutchison proposed it back in March 2011, but I guess it went nowhere.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press conference today, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, announced legislation to create an infrastructure bank that would help close America’s widening infrastructure funding gap, create millions of American jobs in the next decade, and make the United States more competitive in the 21st century.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who also attended the event, underscored the unique coalition of business and labor uniting around this initiative.

“This is a bi-partisan moment to make a once bi-partisan issue bi-partisan once again,” said Sen. Kerry.  “Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, are now united to create an American infrastructure bank to leverage private investment, make America the world’s builders once again, and close the deficit in our infrastructure investments.  The BUILD Act will create good jobs, strengthen our competitiveness, and do more with less.  Most of all, this bill breaks a partisan stalemate to get America back in the game.  When you’ve got a Massachusetts Democrat, a Texas Republican, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO preaching from the same hymnal, you’ll find a sweet spot that can translate into a major legislative step forward.”

“I have been working to overhaul our nation’s aging infrastructure for nearly 20 years. This national infrastructure bank is an innovative way to leverage private-public partnerships and maximize private funding to address our water, transportation, and energy infrastructure needs. It is essential to think outside the box as we work to solve national challenges, particularly in this fiscal crisis. We must be creative to meet the needs of our country and to spur economic development and job growth while protecting taxpayers from new federal spending as much as possible,” said Sen. Hutchison, who served on the Commission to Promote Investment in America’s Infrastructure in 1993 as State Treasurer of Texas and is the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

“The United States is spending less than two-percent of its GDP on infrastructure, while India spends five-percent and China spends nine-percent,” said Sen. Warner. “As a matter of global competitiveness, we need to find additional ways to upgrade our nation’s infrastructure, and this bank will help us strike the right balance between near-term discipline and investment in future growth.”

“A national infrastructure bank is a great place to start securing the funding we need to increase our mobility, create jobs, and enhance our global competitiveness,” said Donohue. “With a modest initial investment of $10 billion, a national infrastructure bank could leverage up to $600 billion in private investments to repair, modernize, and expand our ailing infrastructure system. While private capital is badly needed, we must also recognize our public financing mechanism is broken. Receipts to the Highway Trust Fund have fallen dramatically, funds are being diverted to non-infrastructure projects, and the gas tax has not been increased in 17 years. We need a multiyear highway bill to meet immediate needs, but we have to figure out a way to ensure we have adequate public investments for years to come.”

The Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act would establish an American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA) – a kind of infrastructure bank – to complement our existing infrastructure funding.  This institution, which would provide loans and loan guarantees, would be both fiscally responsible and robust enough to address America’s needs.

 

AIFA is independent of the political process.  It would fund the most important and most economically viable projects across the country, our states, and our communities.

AIFA is also fiscally responsible.  While AIFA will receive initial funding from the government, after that it must become self-sustaining.

Finally, AIFA relies on the private sector.  It can never provide more than 50 percent of a project’s costs, and in many cases would provide much less, just enough to bring in private investment.

(click here to continue reading John Kerry – United States Senator for Massachusetts: Press Room.)

Division Street Bridge
Division Street Bridge

More:

Earlier this year, Sen. John Kerry introduced the BUILD Act as new legislation to tackle the problems of jobs, economic growth and our declining infrastructure simultaneously. The centerpiece of the legislation calls for the creation of an American Infrastructure Financing Authority, or what is coming to be known as an “infrastructure bank.” This essay will touch on the fundamentals of the bill and the problem it attempts to solve, explain ways it could be improved, argue that it is a good idea, and advocate political support for it. The BUILD Act creates a financial institution modeled after the Export-Import Bank, which was created by FDR during the Great Depression. The bill would require a small amount of start-up capital financed by the federal government, but it would conduct its business as an independent agency. A CEO and a seven-member board of directors would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Although the initial start-up capital ($10B) would be provided by the federal government, the bank would be required to become self-sufficient in five years.

(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Building on the BUILD Act.)

So, we’ll see. Apparently John Boehner’s House minions don’t like the idea of country first over party victory, so have refused to move the bill forward.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 22nd, 2012 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business,government

Tagged with ,

Upcoming Park Projects In Chicago

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The Temperature is Rising
The Temperature is Rising

Pleased to read of these projects going forward despite the city’s budgetary woes. Investing in infrastructure is nearly always worth the expense, in the long run.

Several major projects remain on the city’s lakefront docket, aiming to complete the makeover that began nearly a decade ago and create an unbroken, 3-mile stretch of green jewels. Up first is a do-over for Navy Pier. Remade just a decade and a half ago for $225 million, the current version is widely seen as a pavement-heavy, retail-dominated tourist trap.

The new scheme, shaped by the pier’s owners and Gensler design, envisions new green spaces, sculptures and pools to go along with a redesign of the shopping arcade and family pavilion. A design competition is underway. Several favorites – including Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid and local architect and recent MacArthur “genius” winner Jeanne Gang – have already been eliminated.

The finalists, announced a couple months ago, include James Corner, designer of the High Line, the Danish firm BIG, and Chicago up-and-comer UrbanLab, which won several awards for its visionary Growing Water proposal a couple years ago.

The winning design is to be announced in mid-February, after a public viewing period of the finalists’ proposals, starting February 2. The project, which is scheduled for completion for the pier’s 100th anniversary, is budgeted around $200 million.

Just west of the pier, the Navy Pier Flyover is set to begin construction this year at a cost of $50 million. An elevated overpass for bikers and pedestrians, the flyover will increase safety and reduce the bottleneck on the busiest section of the lakefront trail, near Grand Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. Plans also include ramps and pathways leading to the pier itself and nearby DuSable Park.

A new section of Grant Park is also in the offing. New York architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has laid out a detailed plan for the $30 million remaking of the park’s north end, expected to begin this fall. It includes a climbing mountain, a skating ribbon, rather than a rink, and a handful of meandering trails, green spaces and sculptures. The work should be completed in 2015.

(click here to continue reading A Green Revolution in Chicago – Design – The Atlantic Cities.)

Little Shop of Industrial Horror
Little Shop of Industrial Horror

and slightly more on the Grant Park project:

Long-awaited designs for renovating north Grant Park finally were unveiled at a recent meeting conducted by Gia Biaggi, director of park planning for the Chicago Park District. The meeting was one of several public gatherings sponsored by the Grant Park Conservancy (GPC) and the Chicago Park District (CPD) over the last 18 months.

The project will transform Grant Park between Randolph and Monroe Streets and from Columbus Drive east to the Cancer Survivors Garden. It grew out of the need to replace the interior of the Monroe Garage, which supports Daley Bicentennial Plaza. With the garage closed, workers have almost completed the interior work. In Phase II, they will repair the garage roof; because of its position below the park and beneath the plaza, they must remove almost 20 acres of park land to complete this phase.

“We decided on a new park design because of this,” said Bob O’Neill, GPC president. “We will begin breaking ground in the fall of 2012 and remove the garage when summer is over. Hopefully, they’ll start doing the park in 2013 and open in the spring of 2015. It’s an enormous project, but to do it right, we can’t do it any faster.”

The park will offer a variety of unusual amenities, to make it attractive to as many people as possible. The project budget is about $30 million, but O’Neill would like it increased by another $20 million from corporate and private sponsorship. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the landscape architecture firm chosen to design the project, strives for environmentally sustainable landforms offering “fluidity.”

One amenity under consideration is a waterfall that would become a wall of ice in winter. Van Walkenburgh explained his philosophy that a park can provide more than a network of paths by introducing rolling landforms that create diverse usage; have naturalistic planting; mitigate noise, wind, and sun for comfort; and offer untraditional play areas for children.

He wants to make “one of the very best playgrounds that America has” for kids in North Grant Park. Besides the traditional swings and play equipment, he plans to create innovative play spaces using green materials and nature to encourage exploration and imagination and add diversity to children’s enjoyment. The firm will fill the park predominantly with green space, water, natural materials, and landforms winding around and flowing naturally through the park.

Sculptures scattered throughout the winding paths will enhance the experience. North Grant Park will be both active and passive.

The active area will allow visitors to interact with the environment, explore nature, and “roll in the grass and play in the snow,” Van Walkenburgh said. The current design includes a climbing wall and ice skating; a circuit of trails will allow people of all ages to wander among trees and engage in imaginative play.

Passive enjoyment will come from benches allowing visitors to rest, observe, and “feel one with nature,” he said. “The intention is to mix it up and give people choices.” Van Valkenburgh noted the park’s urban component, an important feature that will offer cafes, beer gardens, green markets, and places where people of all ages can gather.

(click here to continue reading Gazette Chicago » Officials reveal Grant Park renovation plans to public.)

Some Kinda Bubble Boy
Some Kinda Bubble Boy

The bike trail gets pretty funky by Navy Pier, especially on a warm, summer day, so this is good news.

The Navy Pier Flyover, a proposed overpass that’s been touted as a safety boon for bikers and pedestrians on the heavily-traveled lakefront trail, is slated to get a big chunk of money that could make the project a reality.

The proposal envisions a half-mile bridge that would deliver walkers and pedalers across the Chicago River and over a thorny intersection at Grand Avenue and the lower level of Lake Shore Drive. Just west of Navy Pier, the junction is widely known as a magnet for high-risk traffic, channeling thousands of day commuters and tourists by the hour.

Running 18 miles in total, the trail begins at Hollywood Avenue on the city’s North Side and reaches down to 71st Street on the South Side. But the area near Navy Pier is one of the busiest parts of the whole path, and most in need of help, according to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele.

The flyover project, passed before the city’s plan commission in February, currently touts a price tag of $49.1 million. Part of that bill could be footed if the proposal makes its way into the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, a federally-funded reimbursement initiative that is managed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and aimed at tackling transit-pollution issues in the region. CMAP, which oversees infrastructure and transportation projects in Northeastern Illinois, is considering forking over $11.3 million to help with the construction of the bridge in two phases. That’s just one of 350 applications — totaling requests of over $1.8 billion — that the agency is currently reviewing. The program has between $350 and $400 million dollars to dole out for projects running through 2016.

(click here to continue reading Congested lakeshore path could get cash for a revamp near Navy Pier | News | Skyline.)

Written by Seth Anderson

January 12th, 2012 at 8:44 am

Posted in Chicago-esque

Tagged with , , ,

Investment Shortfall for Water Infrastructure

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Natural Science
Natural Science

Speaking of water infrastructure, this report is disturbing:

A new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers takes a dim view of the state of the country’s 54,000 community-based drinking-water systems and its 15,000 public wastewater treatment facilities. The systems are rusty, aging and seriously inadequate for meeting future needs, the study warns.

The drinking-water systems, just under half of which are publicly owned, supply 264 million people. The wastewater treatment facilities supply about 225 million people, but they are so prone to failure that 900 billion gallons of untreated sewage are discharged each year, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2004.

The E.P.A.’s 2010 estimate of the capital cost of modernizing this infrastructure was $91 billion, the report said, but financing for that purpose amounted to only $35 million. If systemic neglect continues, it adds, that shortfall will only increase.

(click here to continue reading Report Sees Investment Shortfall for Water Infrastructure – NYTimes.com.)

If only there was an unemployment crisis in the United States that could be solved by hiring folks to repair infrastructure. Oh wait, there is! Too bad the Rethuglican plan is to destroy our country by any means necessary, including sabotage of the economy…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 21st, 2011 at 9:50 am

Posted in government

Tagged with ,

A Jobs Program In America

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Restorative Harmony
Restorative Harmony

If only our politicians were as brave and bold as Franklin Roosevelt…I wouldn’t hold my breath

Bob Herbert writes:

Politicians have given little more than lip service to this terrible turn of events. If there was but one message that I would try to get through to the nation’s leadership, it is that we cannot begin to get the United States back on track until we begin to put our people back to work.

And there is so much work to be done. Start with the crying need to rebuild the nation’s aging, deteriorating infrastructure – its bridges and highways, airports and air traffic control systems, its sewer and wastewater treatment facilities, the electrical grid, inland waterways, public transportation systems, levees and floodwalls and ports and dams, and on and on. Lawrence Summers, until recently President Obama’s top economic adviser, has pointed out that 75 percent of America’s public schools have structural deficiencies. Twelve percent of the nation’s bridges have been rated structurally deficient and another 15 percent are functionally obsolete.

Three to four trillion dollars worth of improvements will be needed over the next decade just to bring the infrastructure into a reasonable state of repair. Meanwhile, we’ve got legions of unemployed construction workers, manufacturing workers, engineers and others who are ready and eager to step into the breach, to take on jobs ranging from infrastructure maintenance and repair to infrastructure design and new construction. It shouldn’t require a genius to put together those two gigantic pieces of America’s economic puzzle – infrastructure and unemployment.

Yes, it would be expensive. But the money spent  would be an investment designed to bring about a stronger, more stable economic environment. Putting people to work bolsters the economy and the newly-employed workers begin paying taxes again. Improving the infrastructure would make American industry much more competitive overall, and would spawn new industries. Creation of a national infrastructure bank that would use government funds to leverage additional investments from the private sector to finance projects of national importance would lead to extraordinary longterm benefits.

But even rebuilding the infrastructure is not enough. The employment crisis facing the U.S. is enormous and is taking a particularly harsh toll on the less well-educated members of the society. We need to take our cue from Franklin Roosevelt who understood during the Depression that nothing short of a federal jobs program was essential. The two-pronged goal was to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed and, as the workers began spending their wages, improve the economy.

Roosevelt put millions of Americans to work, including artists, writers, photographers and musicians. It was an unprecedented undertaking, and it worked.

(click here to continue reading HOME – PolicyShop.)

Broken History

Broken History

and meanwhile, the GOP’s prescription for creating jobs is laughable. Laughable if this wasn’t my country we are talking about. But we are discussing the US, so the joke isn’t very funny.

The Republicans think these things will be useful: destroying unions, more free trade agreements, lowering business taxes even lower, repealing EPA and other regulations, and cutting the minimum wage. If you think any of these policy ideas are going to jump-start our anemic economy, I have a beautiful bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Sarah Jaffe reports at Alternet:

Washington, nearly a year after the 2010 election that was supposedly all about jobs, finally seems to have woken up to the fact that the economy is still in the dumps and Americans are sort of angry about it. Make that very angry. And with Republicans in charge of at least part of Congress as well as many state governments, they know they’re about to take some of the blame for the continuing lack of any policy ideas on job creation–recent polls show only 24 percent of the country approves of how they’re doing their jobs. Not to mention the GOP primary field is loaded with contenders claiming they have the magic solution to the jobs problem.

So what is this masterful GOP jobs agenda? You won’t be shocked to hear that it’s more of the same—more deregulation, more tax cuts, more whining about deficits. “House Republicans are planning votes for almost every week this fall in an effort to repeal environmental and labor requirements on business that they say have hampered job growth,” says the Washington Post. But since you’re about to be hearing these same ideas, with minor variations, over and over again, we thought we’d count down the five worst ideas, and arm you with some reasons why they’re so very bad.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 4th, 2011 at 8:46 am