From Capitol Hill to neighborhood Facebook groups, everyone seems to be talking about America’s aging infrastructure, which recently earned a C-minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The grade – an average of scores across several categories including transit (D-minus) and railroads (B) – is an improvement from 2017’s D+. Still, the somber fact remains: America’s roads and bridges, water and gas mains, dams and energy sources are deteriorating. Largely built between the 1930s and 1950s, a sizeable portion of our nation’s infrastructure, in cities in particular, needs to be dramatically improved and in many cases replaced to operate safely and reliably.
Infrastructure repair is a costly matter whichever way you look at it. Preemptively fixing and replacing infrastructure comes at a price tag in the trillions. But failure to act – known by the ASCE as “status quo investments” – is also on track to cost America in the billions (and potentially trillions) not only in repairs when needs arise, but in business costs, economic opportunity loss, and other economic consequences. The status quo approach also introduces widespread risk. After all, infrastructure and public health and safety go hand in hand.
It’s important to note that whether infrastructure improvements are dictated by emergency scenarios or performed in advance of acute problems, Danella clients are likely to involve us in the job when it entails water or utilities. Put simply, our stance on infrastructure is not informed by business outcomes. Still, we are vocal advocates of wholesale infrastructure updates implemented preemptively, before crises have time to set in. It’s an opinion we’ve developed in large part from spending time on emergency job sites, witnessing and managing the complexities and nuances thereof.
Take the explosion of a steam pipe in New York City’s Flatiron District a few years back.
In July of 2018, Danella was called on by our client to replace a 20-inch steam pipe, installed in 1932, that ruptured on a weekday morning in Manhattan. Eight people were injured by the explosion’s debris. Thankfully, initial concerns about airborne asbestos from the high-pressure steam pipe were ultimately unfounded (while the steam line casing contained asbestos, there was no meaningful trace of asbestos in the air afterward). Trauma endured by those who witnessed the explosion is harder to quantify.
In the days following the explosion, Danella worked amidst a shaken public and suboptimal working conditions to urgently replace the ruptured steam pipe. Street closures and temporary evacuations of residents and businesses would have been fewer had the pipe been replaced prior to exploding. Tensions would have been lower. The price tag would have been less.
The opinion in investing now or later is a thought process that is continuously ongoing. But as the infrastructure of our country continues to age the outcome is becoming clearer.
Danella is ready to support our customers in their needs whether in emergency situations or day-to-day operations. Learn about our services at: danella.com/construction