Dealing with dangerously fragile infrastructures

According to experts, the April 29, 2007, road collapse in San Francisco was the result of a freak accident, but the mayor is calling it a wake-up call - a reminder of how vulnerable his San Francisco's vital infrastructure is. Now cities across the country are realizing that too are dealing with dangerously fragile systems of their own. ABC's Bob Jamieson reports on this issue.

According to highway engineers, the neglect of America's infrastructure costs lives every day. More than 40,000 people die in highway accidents each year. Road conditions, engineers said are a factor in almost one third of those deaths.

America's most important road system, the 46,000 miles of interstate highway, is now a half century old. In fact, a report card two years ago from the American Society of Civil Engineers said that 34 percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

And that's not all. According to civil engineers, the number of unsafe dams has risen by more than 33 percent in the past two years and in that time there have been 29 dam failures. Power capacity isn't keeping pace with demand and the power grid needs $10 billion a year invested over the next five years.

Civil engineers also said 27 percent of America's bridges are structurally deficient, and they may require major maintenance or replacement, which will cost an estimated $10 billion each year over the next two decades. But that's small compared to the estimated $54 billion poor roads cost motorists in repairs and extra operating costs. Some argue the real problem is congestion that the road system is strained beyond its capacity.

"It's a real strain in terms of the competitiveness and productivity of our economy, you know we're losing huge amounts of time we' re losing the values of reliability," said Emily Frankel, former U.S Department of Transportation official.

With Americans already losing three and a half billion hours a year stuck in traffic, it threatens to go from slow, to slower.


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