news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

news

US Infrastructure Is Broken. Here’s an $830 Million Plan to Fix It - Best News

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

US Infrastructure Is Broken. Here’s an $830 Million Plan to Fix It

There’s one word that will get any American fuming, regardless of their political inclination: infrastructure. Pothole-pocked roads, creaky bridges, and half-baked public transportation bind us nationally like little else can. And that was before climate change’s coastal flooding, extreme heat, and supercharged wildfires came around to make things even worse.

US infrastructure was designed for the climate we enjoyed 50, 75, even 100 years ago. Much of it simply isn’t holding up, endangering lives and snapping supply chains. To bring all those roads, railways, bridges, and whole cities into the modern era, the Biden-Harris administration last week announced almost $830 million in grants through 2021’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The long list of projects includes improved evacuation routes in Alaska, a new bridge in Montana, restored wetlands in Pennsylvania, and a whole bunch of retrofits in between.

“We know that if we want to build infrastructure that lasts for the next 50 or 100 years, it's got to look different than the last 50 or 100 years,” says US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg.

WIRED sat down with Buttigieg to talk about the bipartisan appeal of infrastructure, utilizing nature instead of fighting it, and the irresistible triple payoff of getting people out of cars and into buses and trains. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Matt Simon: The United States is a very diverse place, climate-wise. We've got all these deserts and extreme heat, coastlines and sea level rise, and increasingly extreme rainfall. How does this new funding go toward managing all that?

Secretary Buttigieg: While every part of the country is different, every part of the country sees transportation systems impacted by the climate and other threats. It can be wildfires, it can be floods, sea level rise, mudslides, droughts, or even earthquakes. All of these things can impact the durability of our transportation systems. And many of these things are getting more extreme.

One of the more counterintuitive consequences of climate change is heavier rainfall. A lot of this funding is going toward retrofitting infrastructure to adapt to those sorts of deluges. What are the options?

In Cincinnati, for example, we're shoring up retaining walls and actually installing sensors in hills to get ahead of an issue where a hillslide, caused by intense rainfall, would impact a road. In West Memphis, we're investing in natural infrastructure. What's interesting about that case is it's not actually the road itself—we're investing in the wetlands around the road to make flooding less likely. That’s part of how we protect supply chains that run along I-55 and I-40.

And then sometimes you're facing a one-two punch. In Colorado, for example, I-70 was impacted by a combination of fires and floods. A wildfire will come through, it'll undermine the trees and root structures that hold soil together, it'll be followed by a flood. And then you'll be more likely to have a mudslide, which took out I-70 for an extended amount of time a few years ago. So we are seeing that a lot of times—something that as a former mayor I think about a lot—which is just the struggle against water in the wrong places. It's certainly a big part of what we have to deal with in our transportation systems.

Most PopularBusinessAirchat Is Silicon Valley’s Latest Obsession

Lauren Goode

PoliticsDonald Trump Poses a Unique Threat to Truth Social, Says Truth Social

William Turton

ScienceThe Paradox That's Supercharging Climate Change

Matt Simon

GearIkea’s New Range Is Stealth Mode for Gamers

Eric Ravenscraft

What makes nature a powerful partner here? Both outside of cities—as you mentioned, wetlands being able to absorb floodwaters and rising seas—but even within cities, like more green spaces being good for reducing urban temperatures.

A lot of times we can incorporate natural infrastructure into the life of the city, or the way our land-use works. And there's a real win-win. Some of our grants are helping with heat islands: For example, the [California] city of Davis, where we're helping them effectively reimagine the substance and the technologies around their pavements. There are ways to have cooler pavement that helps mitigate against that. From the days of canals, we've always kind of mixed nature and artificial construction to get results in terms of transportation. The smarter and more flexible we are, the better the results and the more durable the results are going to be.

In what ways does preparing for climate change in cities actually provide opportunities to improve infrastructure and public health? So for instance, getting people out of cars and into buses and trains instead.

Anytime we can support active transportation or public transit, there is a triple payoff. There's an economic win, a safety win, and health and environmental win. Because these are modes of transportation that are associated with better public health, whether we're talking about the health benefits that come directly from active transportation, or just the fact of cleaner air. And we have more and more data now about the impacts of air quality and how that affects things like childhood asthma, which is why we're funding everything from greener shipping in ports to things like bike lanes.

A lot of this funding is going toward improving evacuation routes. What does that say about how bad the effects of climate change already are? How bad is the federal government expecting things to get if we're investing heavily in these options?

What I've seen in places ranging from Maui to Appalachian Kentucky is that we need to make sure that those kinds of routes are there when people need them. And it's also a reminder that climate change is not an academic exercise, nor is the reality of it debatable anymore. There's all kinds of debates on what to do to stop it from getting worse, which is another very active area of investment here, but we also simply have to deal with what's upon us right now and recognize that a road designed 50 years ago might not be the right design for today's climate.

It doesn't matter if you're on the coast or inland in the US, we've all got infrastructure that's vulnerable. Does that give this sort of funding bipartisan appeal?

There can be. I've noticed that even those who are not with us in Congress to get this funding set up, are still advocating for it to come to their states. And yeah, it has a very unifying effect in terms of the threat we all face and the resilience needs we all share. I think about the heat waves in the Pacific Northwest a couple of years ago, that should have been statistically impossible, and they wound up leading to shutdowns of transit because cables were literally at risk of melting. I think about the project we're doing to elevate the causeway in Miami Beach that's getting swamped by rising sea levels. You're talking about literally the opposite corners of the continental US united by the reality that their transportation infrastructure needs to adapt.

Popular Articles