Better Roads Staff | April 8, 2012
Drip. Drip.. Drip.
A new report says that the cost of repairing and expanding our buried drinking water infrastructure over the next 25 years will be more than a trillion dollars. And higher water bills (as much as three times) and local fees will pick up most of the tab.
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) report, Buried No Longer, says the $1 trillion figure assumes pipes being replaced at the end of their useful lives. “Because pipe assets last a long time, water systems that were built in the latter part of the 19th century and throughout much of the 20th century have, for the most part, never experienced the need for pipe replacement on a large scale.”
Postponing infrastructure investment in the near-term raises the overall cost and increases the likelihood of water main breaks and other infrastructure failures, says the report.
Among the key findings:
• Between now and 2050, needs exceed $1.7 trillion. Replacement needs account for about 54 percent of the total, with the balance attributable to population changes.
• Pipe replacement accounts for more than 84 percent of a $278 billion need in the Northeast and Midwest through 2035. In the South and West, expansion to meet a growing population amounts to about 62 percent of a projected $277 billion cost over those years.
• The required national-level investment will double from roughly $13 billion a year today to almost $30 billion annually by the 2040s (in 2010 dollars).
• Household water bills will rise. How much will vary, depending on past investment, community size and geographic region. In some communities the infrastructure costs alone could triple the size of a typical family’s bill.
• Places with fewer people living far apart, small, rural communities, will be hardest hit because they have more pipe miles per customer than large, urban systems.
• Most impacted households could see their drinking water bills increase between $300 and $550 per year above current levels.
You can find the full report at www.awwa.org/infrastructure
A Pothole APP
You hit a pothole, you fill the air with your frustration, and at the same time your smart phone, untouched, is transmitting pothole details.
Boston is testing an app called Street Bump, which uses sensors embedded in mobile devices to identify vibrations that could indicate potholes or other road hazards. And all you have to do is turn it on before you drive.
Using machine-to-machine communication, the app combines the vibrations it detects with GPS data and transmits the information back to the city. A software algorithm then deciphers whether a pothole is present. If so, a Boston Public Works Department employee is alerted so a repair crew can be dispatched.
The Street Bump app was developed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, with Fabio Carrera, a local professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Although only in the pilot program stage, the idea is to not only speed up road repairs in Boston, but also to develop a real-time map of street conditions that can be accessed by local users and for other cities around the world that are using the app. It runs on Android devices, but an iPhone version is expected when the finalized version of app appears later this year.
For more details on the development and work of the Street Bump app go to www.govtech.com/wireless/Boston-Testing-App-for-Auto-Detecting-Potholes.html
The need for speed devours huge chunks of American cities and leaves the edges of the expressways worthless. Busy streets, for almost all of human history, created the greatest real estate value because they delivered customers and clients to the businesses operating there. This in turn cultivated the highest tax revenues in town, both from higher property taxes and from elevated sales taxes. But you can’t set up shop on the side of an expressway. How can cities afford to spend so much to create thoroughfares with no adjoining property value?
These are the words of Steve Mouzon on his OriginalGreen blog. He continues by identifying four basic problems created by the need for urban speed:
Increasing speed a little bit requires a big increase in the size of curves. At 20 miles per hour, any car can handle a curve with a 15 foot radius, so you’d think that tripling the speed would triple the radius, right? Wrong. At 60 miles per hour, curve radii are usually a few hundred feet, not the 45 feet you might guess
Faster roads need wider lanes. An 8 foot lane can handle 20 mile per hour traffic, but at highway speeds, you need 12 foot lanes.
Medians and shoulders
High-speed roads need wide medians and shoulders because a car can roll hundreds of feet beyond the point of collision or loss of control when it is traveling at highway speeds.
Number of lanes
It makes no sense to use all that land on either side for a two-lane highway, so high-speed thoroughfares usually have at least four lanes, often several more.
“How can we afford to pay so much and get so little?” says Mouzon. “Cities really do need to rethink their infrastructure priorities. We are beyond the point where we can spend enormous sums of money with little or no return.”
You’ll find the full blog, in the February archives of Mouzon’s blog (www.originalgreen.org).
“America is one big pothole.”
-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pushing Congress for a reauthorization bill
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