Collapse: Vehicles rest on a crumpled section of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in the city’s downtown, collapsed during the evening rush hour (Aug. 2, 2007).Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images
“Tens of thousands of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A third of the nation’s highways are in poor or mediocre shape. Massively leaking water and sewage systems are creating health hazards and contaminating rivers and streams. Weakened and under-maintained levees and dams tower over communities and schools. And the power grid is increasingly maxed out, disrupting millions of lives and putting entire cities in the dark.”
This statement is not describing a developing country. It was written to promote a History Channel television special dealing with the dire condition of America’s infrastructure and the kinds of manmade disasters that could be just around the bend.
It gets worse. A New York Times report found that “a significant water line bursts on average every two minutes somewhere in the country”—or 720 times daily!
“In Washington alone,” the article continues, “there is a pipe break every day, on average, and [in March 2010] intense rains overwhelmed the city’s system, causing untreated sewage to flow into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. State and federal studies indicate that thousands of water and sewer systems may be too old to function properly.
“For decades, these systems—some built around the time of the Civil War—have been ignored by politicians and residents accustomed to paying almost nothing for water delivery and sewage removal. And so each year, hundreds of thousands of ruptures damage streets and homes and cause dangerous pollutants to seep into drinking water supplies.”
This is Washington, D.C.—the capital city of the free world! In this age of modern technology, medical advances and an international space station, it seems incredible that the vital infrastructure of the United States is collapsing.
The sweeping scale of the problem is not yet fully visible because infrastructure—power grids and water and sewer systems—is largely hidden from the naked eye. The average person gives little thought to it but for one exception: when it does not work.
Most do not realize that the U.S. is hurtling toward a time when vital utilities will regularly drop out, roadways will become impassable due to disrepair, and blackouts will cripple metropolitan areas.
Millions believe the comfort and luxury afforded to nearly every American will go on forever. But, without drastic intervention, the nation inevitably faces ruinous collapse.
“We’ve been talking about this for many many years,” Patrick Natale, executive director of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), told CNN. “We really haven’t had the leadership or will to take action on it. The bottom line is that a failing infrastructure cannot support a thriving economy.”
After reviewing several areas of America’s infrastructure, ASCE issued a 2009 report card, which gave the nation a bleak cumulative ranking of “D.”
The results for the individual categories were equally telling: Aviation, D; Bridges, C; Dams, D; Drinking Water, D-; Energy, D+; Hazardous Waste, D; Inland Waterways, D-; Levees, D-; Public Parks and Recreation, C-; Rail, C-; Roads, D-; Schools, D; Solid Waste, C+; Wastewater, D-; Transit, D.
In 2001, the ASCE grade was D+. Nearly 10 years later, conditions continue to worsen.
Imagine if your child brought home the same poor grades year after year. You would certainly take immediate action! Yet American infrastructure is able to skate by with barely passing grades because the situation has seemingly not yet become dire.
The ASCE estimates that $2.2 trillion is needed over a five-year period to address all of these concerns. Staggering! All this at a time when the nation is plagued by ever-increasing debt. Daily, the government spends an average of $4.09 billion—with total U.S. debt over $13.1 trillion.
New Orleans, Louisiana: A helicopter drops sandbags to fill a broken section of a failed levee, which allowed floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina to fill the streets of New Orleans.Source: David J. Phillip/AFP/Getty Images
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: A traffic light above a flooded city street in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (June 13, 2008).Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Snoqualmie, Washington: A King County Department of Transportation employee talks on his cellphone while standing atop a damaged section of a road (Jan. 9, 2009). During that time, record rain and snow caused many rivers in western Washington to flood their banks.Source: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Los Angeles, California: Traffic travels on a damaged street (Feb. 10, 2009). The California Department of Transportation announced that it is suspending work on more than 100 projects statewide after the state legislature failed to pass a state budget.Source: David Mcnew/Getty Images
How important to the health of our nation is our infrastructure? Just as the proper functioning of the circulatory system, nervous system and skeletal system is vital to your body’s health and well-being, so too is the nation’s infrastructure vital to the success of its citizens. Utilities and services must be maintained to continue to live the way we do. Without them, nearly everything in the U.S. comes to an immediate halt.
The 2009 ASCE report card detailed the level of disrepair and decay and showed how infrastructure plays into almost every part of day-to-day life.
Roads: “Americans spend 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic at a cost to the economy of $78.2 billion, or $710 per motorist. Poor road conditions cost motorists $67 billion a year in repairs and operating costs, and cost 14,000 Americans their lives. One-third of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 36% of major urban highways are congested. The current spending level of $70.3 billion per year for highway capital improvements is well below the estimated $186 billion needed annually to substantially improve the nation’s highways.”
Bridges: “More than 26%, or one in four, of the nation’s bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. While some progress has been made in recent years to reduce the number of deficient and obsolete bridges in rural areas, the number in urban areas is rising. A $17 billion annual investment is needed to substantially improve current bridge conditions. Currently, only $10.5 billion is spent annually on the construction and maintenance of bridges.”
The ASCE projects a five-year budget shortfall for bridge and road repair of $549.5 billion.
Drinking Water: “America’s drinking water systems face an annual shortfall of at least $11 billion to replace aging facilities that are near the end of their useful life and to comply with existing and future federal water regulations. This does not account for growth in the demand for drinking water over the next 20 years. Leaking pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water a day.”
Wastewater: “Aging systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into U.S. surface waters each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to update or replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demand.”
Shared five-year budget shortfall for drinking water and wastewater: $108.6 billion. For levees: $48.7 billion. Dams: $7.45 billion. Aviation: $40.7 billion. Public transportation: $190.1 billion. The list goes on and on.
One of the most outdated and overburdened parts of infrastructure is that which Americans perhaps most take for granted—electricity.
What would life be like without electricity? When was the last time you walked up 42 stories? How would you prepare meals without a stove or microwave? Failed alarm systems, downed traffic lights, dead telephone lines and no Internet access are just a few of the problems that you would face.
The ASCE states the electrical grid is in urgent need of modernization.
“Congested transmission paths, or ‘bottlenecks,’ now affect many parts of the grid across the country. One recent estimate concludes that power outages and power quality disturbances cost the economy between $25 billion and $180 billion annually. These costs could soar if outages or disturbances become more frequent or longer in duration. There are also operational problems in maintaining voltage levels. Transmission problems have been compounded by the incomplete transition to fair and efficient competitive wholesale electricity markets. Because the existing transmission system was not designed to meet present demand, daily transmission constraints or ‘bottlenecks’ increase electricity costs to consumers and increase the risk of blackouts.”
What happens when the power ceases to flow and a blackout occurs?
In the summer of 2003, the power went out for much of the northeastern United States, as well as parts of eastern Canada.
The New York Times reported during the event: “Office workers who were still at their desks watched their computer monitors blink off without warning on a hot and hazy afternoon. Soon hospitals and government buildings were switching on backup generators to keep essential equipment operating, and the police were evacuating people trapped in elevators.”
“Traffic jams grew to dozens of miles long, stranding buses and even emergency vehicles, as police officers and platoons of well-meaning citizens tried to control the streets with hand-lettered stop-and-go signs. Hundreds of subway and commuter trains were paralyzed, some in tunnels, including a Long Island Rail Road train that was trapped beneath the East River with no air-conditioning for almost two hours.”
The blackout affected as many “as 50 million customers in the United States and Canada, as well as a wide range of vital services and commerce. Air and ground transportation systems shut down, trapping people far from home; drinking water systems and sewage processing plants stopped operating, manufacturing was disrupted and some emergency communications systems stopped functioning. The lost productivity and revenue have been estimated in the billions of dollars,” ASCE reported.
Region-wide loss of power cripples the flow of everyday life. No electricity means no television, no place to charge your cellphone, no computers, gas pumps not working—virtually every part of the daily routine being affected.
The 2003 blackout lasted only a relatively few hours. Consider if the outages were longer—what violence, looting, rioting, would soon grip a city in darkness?
The United States must summon $2.2 trillion over five years to begin to fix its deteriorating physical foundation. This is $2.2 trillion the nation does not have. For the once-towering economic leader, this is a tragic and crippling problem.
Crumbling infrastructure means one thing for the individual—without drastic and widespread intervention now, each individual in America is destined for a severe change of life. One with spotty electricity, without cellphones or Internet access, impassible roads riddled with potholes, higher food prices, and having to boil water to ensure it is safe to drink.
To the average American citizen, this is unthinkable. Yet just sitting down to watch a daily 30-minute news program reveals a different view. On top of failing bridges and roadways, outdated electrical grids and levee systems, and pipes bursting every two minutes are news report after news report of countless tragedies—crises of all kinds—disaster upon disaster.
The unemployment crisis, immigration woes, pension and social security concerns, homegrown terrorists, oil spills, earthquakes and citywide flooding are just a small sample of what America faces. Put together, these crises will cost the nation additional trillions.
After reviewing the facts, one can feel defeated and think: How did we get ourselves to this point? Why has it come to this?
Unknown to most, however, this coming period for America was foretold long ago—and with it comes the reason for the United States’ decline.
The Old Testament of the Bible details the coming state of the nation: “Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumor shall be upon rumor” (Ezek. 7:26). The antiquated language hides the true meaning of the phrase. In the original Hebrew, “mischief” means ruin and disaster; “rumor” can also be translated news and report.
Certainly, there is tragic news report after tragic news report! Before one set of crises is addressed, another consumes the nation.
Of this time, the book of Ezekiel says, “An end is come, the end is come; it [awakes against you]; behold, it is come” (Ezek. 7:6).
This increase of tumult and tragedy has only just begun. As the disasters and ruin pile upon one another—the infrastructure, which once kept the nation safely running—will now only severely worsen each calamity.
During this period, the consumer-driven economy will cease to exist: “The time is come, the day draws near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof” (Ezek. 7:12).
In this time, accumulated luxury items will be useless: “They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord” (Ezek. 7:19).
Ezekiel also states that God intends to punish America.
“Now I will shortly pour out My fury upon you, and accomplish My anger upon you: and I will judge you according to your ways, and will recompense you for all your abominations” (Ezek. 7:8).
But why would He do this?
Before punishment, there will be a warning about national sins and what will come if there is no change. As with any loving parent, God always warns before chastisement, leaving no excuse for those who continue in ruinous behavior.
That warning message, detailed in the pages of the Bible, is plainly explained on The World to Come program, presented by David C. Pack. The daily broadcast, coupled with unique analysis found in The Real Truth magazine, will continue to paint the picture of what is to come—and how it will affect you.