Infrastructure: The roads, rails, and riverboats that connect us

Infrastructure is the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (for example buildings, water treatment plants, roads, power plants, and electricity transmission lines) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise. Even though our group is traveling by water (not on roads), we encounter and rely on many types of infrastructure. We paddle under bridges, we go through locks, we utilize boat launches for lunch spots and bathroom breaks, we shipped food through the mail to ourselves, and we pass by dredging operations and barges everyday.

We have been paddling alongside railroad tracks since day 3. The continual excitement of the railroad tracks has led to a competition between paddlers for who can be under a bridge as a train goes by to experience the thrill and power of such a massive vehicle. We had our opportunity the other day. We ducked under this bridge as a train approached. We were excited, but part of me was a tad wary. Can you guess why, based on the pictures below?

The American Society of Civil Engineers rates America's infrastructure each year by evaluating the safety and condition of bridges, roads, transmission lines, and other vital components of the infrastructure we rely on. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's infrastructure the score of D+. They estimate that an investment of $3.6 trillion is required to bring our infrastructure up to standard by 2020.

What infrastructure do you rely on in your daily life? How do you benefit from infrastructure? Infrastructure projects are very expensive--who is responsible for paying for them? Where does that money come from? What happens if we, as a nation, neglect our infrastructure? Have you heard of or ever experienced a failure of infrastructure, such as a collapsed bridge?


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