Reading over the New York Times Online today, I came across a story about the pumping stations in New Orleans. Interesting to read that the older pumps worked while the newest ones (put in mid-90’s, probably used for the first time) pooped out right away.
And so it seems to go: everything newer is made shoddier and with the eye towards budgets that get skimpier and skimpier. What would have once been a well-built system with redundancy built in turns into a well-built system built to specs turns to a shoddily built system built within a tightened budget.
And after that comes a public-private funding scheme where a developer gets to clear land for yuppification in return for helping build that shoddy system slightly better than otherwise (read: built at all this time around). Something gets built, but only for the rich and decadent, and tourists. Meanwhile the rural outlands of America pray for the cities to get destroyed a la Sodom and Gomorrah.
You can tell the decay in quality in today’s planning: A stretch of US 31 in Michigan gets built for the cheapest possible amount, skipping over better plans because of the cost of said plans. So instead of a straight connection to US 31/ Interstate 196, you get an easy-turning hookover to BR 94 near Saint Joseph/Benton Harbor. Even a sharper-curved hookover would be better, as these turns could be translated into exit ramps when the connection to Interstate 196 finally gets built (If it gets built).
And so we get what happened in New Orleans: the Old Machines work while the New Machines fall apart, then shoddy building elsewhere (dikes built in the sixties) fail and make the Old Machines’ work obsolete.
God Bless America…hopefully with foresight and and willingness to pay for good quality next time around.