This Week in Infrastructure: Winter Weather Gets People Thinking About the Cost of Underinvestment

February 21, 2014

Perhaps between Disney’s box office hit Frozen and the Sochi Olympics you feel as though you’re living in a winter wonderland. Or perhaps it’s because you actually are, given this year’s record snowfall in cities across the country.

In addition to the snow days and need for shovels and boots, this winter has done a number on roads across the country. Cities are running out of salt, pothole-dodging could be an Olympic sport, and finding places to mound all that snow is proving a challenge.

This all comes as state DOTs are already worried about funding as the Highway Trust Fund is on a path to insolvency.

The weather’s impact doesn’t end with Americans’ commutes. The electric grid has also taken a hard hit, with tens of thousands still without power in Georgia and South Carolina. The cold weather has also ravaged pipes, including in Iowa, where there has been a record number of water main breaks in the past six weeks. As all of these problems become more than the sum of their parts—especially true as infrastructure works as a system—this piece in a California paper asks if “our nation can handle freaky weather?”

Meanwhile, West Virginia’s chemical spill last month continues to draw concerns about the safety of drinking water across the country.

The weather’s impact on infrastructure (and the media attention surrounding it) has certainly shown the need for funding and attention for our nation’s roads, electric grid, water pipes, and much more.

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