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Editor's Note: #InfrastructureWeek Must be More Than a Punchline

June 2, 2018
Even as the White House put off its own new Infrastructure Plan until 2019, reality intervened to remind us that our water systems, transportation networks and electrical grids have their own timeline for repairs.

"Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and…” infrastructure? 

In the 1970s, that popular advertising jingle ended with the word “Chevrolet”, but the idea was that these were all things that all Americans, of every political stripe, could love, or at least not hate. “Infrastructure” would surely qualify for that bipartisan appeal, wouldn’t it? 

So, it is yet another indictment of these poisonous political times that the innocuous annual celebration of #InfrastructureWeek by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has devolved into a punchline for how dysfunctional and out-of-touch the federal government has seemingly become. At the end of any one of the more chaotic recent weeks that have defined 2018 so far, some national political commentator somewhere can be counted on to quip via Tweet: “Best #InfrastructureWeek ever!” 

Well, last month, May 14-21, actually was Infrastructure Week 2018, and it was marked by 113 celebratory events nationwide, involving 433 affiliate organizations. Their rallying cry:

Unfortunately, last month also saw the White House run up the white flag on its own $1.5-trillion Infrastructure Plan, which it had only released in February! Trump Administration sources told reporters that they would try again in 2019, after next fall’s national mid-term elections. Wow. 

As if to highlight the urgency of public works fixes delayed, on May 27, flash floods roared through the Baltimore suburb of Ellicott City MD, the second “1-in-1,000-year rain event” to devastate the downtown there in just two years (See video, below). And the next day, the New England Journal of Medicine released a jaw-dropping report on the estimated death toll in Puerto Rico caused by last fall’s Hurricane Maria. More than 5,000 of our fellow Americans are now believed to have died there, largely due to the massive infrastructure failure that followed the storm.

  • In January, Informa's Infrastructure Intelligence Group launched the 'Icons of Infrastructure' website and newsletter. To learn more, click here

And infrastructure in that sense, means much more than just roads and bridges. It means the electrical grid, communications, water systems, and piping. So this is on us now, too.

As our own sustainability columnist Larry Clark wrote recently, referring to widespread urban piping woes in Flint MI and across the U.S.: 

Our industry designs, manufactures, installs, and services a lot of (potable and non-potable) water-consuming equipment. Please let your elected officials know that you care about providing safe and reliable drinking water to all Americans. 

I couldn’t have said it better. Now, however, we just have to add even more urgency.