Challenges to U.S. Urban Infrastructure

Stronger cities equal strong economies. But as businesses and employees move into cities, urban infrastructure struggles to keep up. Urban infrastructure (the sewer and water, transportation, and energy systems that keep a community going) continues to face challenges. Not addressing some of these challenges could be disastrous to population health and safety, as well as the economy.

Water and Environment

As of 2013, the average age of dams in the U.S. was 52 years old, threatening floods in increasingly changing weather patterns. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that it will require an investment of $21 billion to make necessary repairs. Drinking water pipes in the U.S. are also aging and high numbers of water main breaks per year indicate the coming need to replace all piping. This is expected to cost over $1 trillion.

Traffic and Transportation

Traffic fatalities increased by 8% in the first nine months of 2016, and analysts attribute the increasing numbers of workers since post-economic recovery on the roads. Improving roads and increasing alternative modes of transportation can cut back on traffic, give people more hours in the day, improve health in the face of increasingly sedentary lifestyles, save lives, and benefit the environment. Integrated and coordinated city transportation plans can make alternative options and behavior changes more accessible and rewarding. For example, in Hong Kong, a single smart card can be used for several modes of transportation, including coverage of gas and fuel in some circumstances.

The Future

There is not a single solution for overcoming such multi-faceted and far-reaching challenges in the future. It will take substantial investments and redistribution of public spending priorities and private investments. It will also take innovations in technology and manufacturing and considerations for our changing climate and weather patterns.

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