CNN investigates the state of the country’s bridges, railways, airports and pipelines in a new four-part video series: America’s Crumbling Infrastructure, available online
Over the recent July 4th and Memorial Day holidays, nearly 40 million Americans embarked on one of the nation’s busiest travel seasons “jarred by potholes on America’s roads, crossing her aging bridges, riding her antiquated railways and taking off from airports that draw international scorn,” notes CNN.
Long a source of national pride, America’s infrastructure is in critical need of repair, but federal government spending on the issue has declined in the past decade. As former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says, “We’re like a third-world country when it comes to infrastructure.”
Part 1: Bridges: Disintegrating Bridges
Nearly 60,000 bridges across the country are in desperate need of repair. One example is the Arlington Memorial Bridge between Washington and Virginia in the nation’s capital. 68,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, yet the original support beams from 1932 have never been replaced. The 90-year old beams are corroding and the bridge could be closed to vehicle traffic within five years if it isn’t fixed. CNN was granted rare access to go inside the crumbling bridge.
Part 2: Aging Railroad Infrastructure
The most heavily trafficked rail span in the Western Hemisphere connects New Jersey to New York City’s Penn Station. As part of the regional rail infrastructure, the 106-year-old Hudson River Tunnel carries rail lines under the Hudson River connecting more than 230,000 commuters daily—but the tunnel’s 80-years old power cables are failing, causing shutdowns and days-long delays. Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman describes it as one of the most disturbing examples of an infrastructure system long ignored or deprived of needed maintenance. CNN takes a look inside the decaying tunnel.
Part 3: Underfunded Airports
More than 230 million passengers will fly during America’s summer surge in commercial air travel, but the nation’s outdated and overcrowded airports are in dire need of upgrades. Airport infrastructure, largely unchanged since the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s is now struggling to service a nearly 12-fold spike in passenger volume across the decades. Once at the forefront of aviation innovation, U.S. flight hubs in the 21st century are falling far behind their international competitors. CNN delves in to the impact on passengers.
Part 4: Pipelines
High-risk pipelines carrying essential but dangerous fuels like natural gas run under the streets and buildings of dozens of major American cities. Strung together they would run more than 90,000 miles. But many are aging and dangerous. Between 2006 and 2015, incidents related to corroded utility pipelines have killed an average of 13 people annually. In 2010 a 62-year old gas line in San Bruno, California exploded, killing eight.
A DOE report estimates it would cost $270 billion to replace all of the aging pipelines. CNN found that the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has completed only 26 of the 42 requirements mandated by Congress for pipeline safety.