Two not so disparate events happened last week on opposite ends of the country. First, the President speaking from the White House proposed a $50 billion program to create jobs through infrastructure funding.  A few days later a 50-year-old gas main ruptured in a community south of San Francisco destroying an entire neighborhood. The Obama proposal received lukewarm attention, especially from folks who oppose more government spending, while the explosion horrified anyone with gas lines running near their homes—many of us. While we shouldn’t panic over San Bruno-style gas main ruptures coming to a town near you, the tragedy once again red flags the country’s looming infrastructure crisis—old and inadequate systems face breakdowns, which not only impact economic competitiveness, but lead to dire consequences.       

Obama’s latest infrastructure proposal basically comprises another round of stimulus spending for ad hoc projects to fix roads, expand mass transit, and build new airport runways in Congressional districts spread from coast to coast. It would temporarily boost public sector construction work, but is a drop in the bucket given the trillion dollars plus necessary to make a dent in remediating and updating the nation’s ageing systems. And it does nothing to address the country’s long-term needs for the 21st century, including creating interconnected, multi-modal regional transport networks serving our primary economic hubs, a new electric grid to replace the current Depression era system, and regional-multi-state water plans to ensure our major metropolitan areas have enough clean water to sustain future growth. After last week, now let’s add rusting underground gas mains to dilapidated sewage treatment plants and water lines in need of repair.

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