The Walls Come Tumbling Down

April 21, 2017

Recent events in the Atlanta area – burning bridges and buckling roads – bring to the forefront the state of our nation’s infrastructure. While neither of those events were caused by infrastructure failure per se, they do point out how important roads and bridges are to a region and state.

But infrastructure is more than roads, streets and bridges. It’s also the foundational structures we don’t see: our water and sewer systems, gas lines, electricty, etc. Not exactly sexy stuff, but when you turn on the tap and no water comes out, you’re quickly reminded of what an important resource it is!

To put it bluntly: Overall, infrastructure in the U.S. is in pretty bad shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the United States a D+ for its infrastructure. Georgia fared a little better, scoring a “C” by the ASCE.  While noting Georgia’s need for improvement, the group also points out that no one group or agency is to blame for the current situation:

The 2014 Georgia Infrastructure Report Card is not intended to be a commentary on, nor an evaluation of, the performance of any particular government department, agency or individuals of these groups. In fact, our research found that most agencies have made remarkable progress in fulfilling their ever-expanding responsibilities despite being understaffed and underfunded.

The transportation sales tax that some regions passed, and that the state revisited to allow for single-county votes on, is definitely going to help many cities and counties address roads, streets, bridges and sidewalks (an underappreciated mode of transportation. Take a walk sometime from the poorer side of town to the nearest grocery store or medical clinic. Note how easy or hard it is to get there using sidewalks and the conditions of the sidewalks. And then, for extra fun, imagine you have a disability and have to traverse those sidewalks).

Georgia received its lowest grades in the areas of dams, parks & recreation, transit and stormwater. We hear from our cities frequently about water and sewer issues. Among the challenges are the age of the pipes – we have actually heard of cities finding wooden pipes! – undetected leaks, not knowing where all the pipes are, and, of course, funding needed improvements. The city of Atlanta was allowed to implement a Municipal Option Sales Tax years ago when the city was under federal orders to fix its sewer system, but for other cities the main source of funding remains fees , grants and low-interest loans from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. 

Take a look at the infrastructure in your area. What needs work? What are the challenges your cities and counties are encountering? How much money do they estimate it would fully-fund maintenance and improvement to their systems?

And wish me luck! You never know these days when a sinkhole is going to open up!

Amy Henderson:; Cell: 404-387-0624, Twitter: @amyh_gma
Kelli Bennett:; Cell: 404-796-5508, Twitter: @KelliB_GMA
GMA on Twitter: @gacities

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