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After a dollop of lip service and a $150 billion injection of stimulus funding mostly for desperately needed fix-it projects, America’s slowly corroding and crumbling infrastructure looks like it will get less attention rather than more in the New Year. All the excitement generated in 2009 about high speed rail lines springing up across the country has dissipated in budget busting realities. Cities cut back on or delay subway and light rail projects. Water districts postpone plans to replace or upgrade rusting mains and past-their-life-cycle sewage treatment plants.  Maybe worst of all and indicative of the country’s mounting predicament, highway departments in states and cities around the country make triage decisions about whether they repair dangerous bridges or take their chances for another year on patching and monitoring since they don’t have the money to do anything else.

While politician priorities are tax cuts and deficit reduction, the systems that facilitate mobility, economic growth, and prosperous lifestyles degrade slowly, threatening to undermine the country’s global standing. Liberals talk up healthcare and Social Security. Conservatives just want to put more money in (less face it wealthy) people’s pockets. It’s somehow critical to our national defense that we’ve spent the past nearly 10 years fighting trillion dollar wars. But no one seems to get that our transport networks, water systems, and power grids are beginning to look and act more Third World than New Age.  And given our other priorities, there is no funding or impetus to take action.

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