tv Book Discussion on The Road Taken CSPAN April 3, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT
and i even tried. >> host: i have enjoyed our time together so much. again, this is a great book. this is one of the great things about this and you know, thanks for taking the time and sharing it with us. >> guest: thank you for asking me those wonderful questions. i wish that i had known the answers. >> usually it is authors are sharing their new releases. >> watching on the tv is the best television for serious readers. >> they can delve into the subject.
of engineering and professor of history at duke here tonight to discuss his new book. he's written many books for both engineers and laypeople alike. pushing the limits, new adventures in engineering and many more. this is the first time that he's here with us today and i'm thrilled. and my boss wanted me to mention to you we have a collapsed storm water drain in the parking lot so we are eager to hear more about infrastructure. thank you. [laughter] >> thank you very much. i am pleased to be here. i want to talk about the infrastructure in particular.
the aspects that are discussed in my book. the title suggests it is mainly about roads and bridges but more generally it's about infrastructure and the funding of infrastructure and the problems we have with infrastructure. bridges are a problem. if i can see my slides i will go to this. with 600,000 total about one out of nine are problematic and that means they need work that they are but they are not necessarily going to collapse, although we know sometimes that does happen. there were about 4 million miles of roads in this country.
only half of them are paved. the pothole problem is well-known but the question is how do we pay for this where necessary and support. i like to look at this historical background of things. the automobile and motorized vehicles generally have taken a lot of the blame. but even before that, we had horses and wagons of course. they were pretty bad back then, to back. and in fact the transition time from horse and wagon to motorized vehicle there was a symbiotic relationship between them. the horses had no problem or not a complete complement of
negotiating that automobiles are not so very often they had to come to the rescue of the automobiles and this is just one image of many. there is a situation that occurred in 1919 that was an important development of the country's infrastructure. the u.s. army wanted to demonstrate its capabilities and they undertook a convoy taking it trip across the country from washington, d.c. to san francisco. we know that about 3,000 piles roughly. it took them 60 days because the condition of the road was just terrible. among the people on that convoy was the young lieutenant colonel
dwight david eisenhower and this this may be very strong impression on him and we will come back to that if we talk about the interstate that are very much associated with him and he was a great proponent of largely because of his experience with this transcontinental journey. there are many illustrations of the photographs of this trip. the question is where they did find the bridge was it adequate and stand up under the army trucks and one of the participants in the transcontinental journey basically said we will have proved that we need to build them up better. anyway, they finally did did
make it through california but of course as i mentioned come it took 60 days. today, depending on how fast you drive it takes a little bit less than that. eisenhower was instrumental in promoting legislation in the 1950s as he was president and one particular piece of legislation what but it really did is establish the idea of the national system of roads was going around as early as 1920 and later in the 1930s the so-called roads were promoted and began to be built but there's always the there was always the question of how do you pay for them. one of the problems is the federal government itself cannot build our own roads.
the constitution simply does not authorize that so the federal government can pay for roads and they set up a system whereby they would share with the states the cause of building the roads and in fact they shared as much as 90% of the cost which is a great incentive. there is a point to a plaintiff is of course point to this of course by having the federal government involved there was a standardization which means when we cross the state line we don't have to readjust to a different set of rules and so forth. but the roads today are highly congested and as we all know when we talk about the state of the infrastructure, we want to give it a great is the american grade as the american society of civil engineers it takes into
account not only the condition but also, the congestion factor if the road is in perfect condition but it's highly congested it doesn't get a good mark. >> guest: is it anything new can of the answer is of course no there is nothing new under the sun. you could almost argue that it is more difficult trying to turn a horse around and keep the horse under control. the streets were the cities had great problems. the streetcar was introduced but that's just created more congestion. with the motor vehicle being introduced, the situation didn't get any better. there were different modes of transportation movement is one
mode of congestion was basically stopped. so controlling traffic was a big part of infrastructure and we don't hear about this often. we don't think in terms of traffic lights or road signs. the lines on the road but these are part of the infrastructure, to back. it takes sometimes decades for these things to evolve through the state so they are doing the job as they are supposed to do. so i want to talk a little bit of traffic control. it is the best because it was so heavily trafficked. 1909 the pictures of new york going into 1910 and 11 and even later there were very few if any
if it is anywhere else in the country. they would have written up a set of rules. there was a fellow whose name was william phelps and his name lives on today through the foundation for transportation headquartered in washington. he developed the first signs and the first rules. he was a great proponent of the traffic circle.
he was very lucky and was born into a well-to-do family. he had plenty of time to observe the situation and observe what was going on in the streets at fifth avenue and the other intersecting streets. not everybody immediately understood the rules were immediately adopted them in fifth avenue continued to be pretty much come just as the streets in chicago and detroit and elsewhere. it looked like this and they said that they were put in towers in large part because there was so much congestion not only of motor vehicles but also for people trying to cross the street and get where they wanted
to go putting the traffic lights up in the air was making them more visible. the early traffic lights had to be manually operated. they would be up in the tower to get a better view of what was coming down the avenue and when they had multiple pillars like this space to several blocks apart, the veriest policemen manning them could communicate with each other mostly visually. they were not a very happy with the looks of these but didn't consider them very attractive to so it was something more keeping with the style at fifth avenue
preacher. this was the winning entry from an architect named joseph remainder. it was both successful and functional but as it continued to grow, this presented the problems of its own because as you can see it is in the middle of the street. so effectively, taking down a lane of traffic. when the cars and trucks would approach this, they would have to squeeze down into another lane so the fifth avenue merchants is asian commission free lander again took to develop another traffic light that would be on the sidewalk and this is a familiar one today in the large urban areas. it only have to lights, green and red in part because there was a lot of confusion and it took quite a while for people to
get used to what it meant and if you threw in the yellow is added to the confusion. the early signals that yellow appeared while the bread was still on and it was the signal that the green was going to come on, just sort of the opposite of what it is today. this gave them a license to sort of rush and they took off before it even appeared. they lived with this into the 70s actually and it took a while before this system that we have now was more or less adopted into the country and again probably because the federal government played a role in sharing the cost of installing the modern signals
and standardizing and getting people to understand how they should behave when there is a traffic signal. safety on the highway we don't have them especially on the interstates, so how do you regulate traffic there? it is done with lane markers and the lines that are separating oncoming traffic. the roads had no marketing at have no marketing at all as you could imagine things start from basically nothing and that is dangerous especially when a blind curve was coming up because it is the tendency of the drivers to hug the inside curve curb and if someone is coming the other way, it's bad news. the story some people consider
is someone in michigan noticed a milk wagon driving along an old country road and there was a white line behind it and that gave someone the idea to put a line down the center of the road. they appeared in upper michigan and 1917. as you know today when you drive on the interstate bus solid white line is marking the edge of the road which is good especially at night. the.
if we get used to it and take it for granted that if you think of driving in these conditions it is a real lifesaver. just look at the red graph here it's just superb population but the number of accidents started growing exponentially the way that automobiles and drivers did and it is an initial growth curve almost everything this way and then it hits the depression in hit for depression in this case it starts leveling out where it drops during world war ii and starts recovering after the war.
what happened in the late 60s and early 70s there were two reasons. since we are talking in the early bookstores his book unsafe at any speed really made the automobile safety vehicle that it is today having a steering wheel that doesn't and dashboards that are somewhat soft but they came out of the same philosophy and seatbelts. before the seatbelts and others they had to pay extra for them. stomach let me talk about bridges a the bridge is a little bit. they are symbolic of the
infrastructure as much as the roads are. is it safe or unsafe? this is the minneapolis interstate highway i 35 bridge that became famous. it took everybody by surprise and it was a bridge that stood for 40 years and had been inspected regularly. then this happened to it. this is what is not supposed to have been to the infrastructure. the accident, the cause was traced with some inadequate designing something that should have been caught but wasn't. it was a very sad occurrence.
we don't want this to happen obviously. what happened after was very interesting because the replacement bridge was built within about a year, something that we are not used to it could get a bridge built in a relatively short period of time. this was the plan of the replacement bridge and give us a timeline set up into the bridge was built on tyne in fact before the expected delivery date and it was done on the budget. it and over and it's the saint anthony's bridge. when an accident does occur usually we see the replacement bridge looking quite different from the original one.
there are reasons we don't want to remind people of the accident. it's snowing up there in minneapolis and it automatically starts spraying the components and detects the problems with the bridge. how do we pay for things like a replacement bridge were paving the road or building a new bridge and expanding the highway and so forth and so on? that's probably the biggest topic in washington these days that should be part of the national debate for the presidential campaign. so far it hasn't risen to the level of that. it's not a federal problem
entirely. they contribute about 25% of the cost of the infrastructure here. we are talking about all levels of the government contributing. the states we pay state taxes, state gasoline taxes and so forth and locally we see some localities also charge tax on gasoline purchases but anyway, the federal government only pays one out of every word of the total cost of. where did they get do they get the money for this? there's something to the highway trust fund which was established with the interstate highway for the 1956 act and it's totally
dedicated to but they are really minor. the main revenue into the highway trust fund are gasoline taxes and fuel taxes. there are minor sales taxes for trucks and so forth but the bulk of it is gasoline and diesel taxes and the gasoline taxes are the order of 63% as we see on this slide. this has been a growing problem for over two decades that the federal gasoline tax is 18.4. it's been frozen because of that
and that means all of the new infrastructure problems that we hear about in the expansion of roads and so forth there is no room in the budget to do that stuff based on gasoline taxes and if we are going to continue to improve and maintain infrastructure in the condition that we like than then we are going to have to look elsewhere. it hasn't been raised and it hasn't kept up with inflation and it hasn't kept up with the needs that people in washington, those that set up these rules have a bad taste period. so there's a lot of talk and this is the history of the gasoline tax and you can see
where this class now since 1993 so what are some of the alternatives to the gasoline tax to raise more money for the highway trust fund? there's a whole bunch of them that are becoming discussed because it looks pretty clear that the federal government isn't going to appreciably change the source of revenue tax. the reason the federal gasoline taxes and bringing in as much revenue isn't only because it's been flat in its rate but because it has been working with itself and it's been encouraging the hybrid vehicle and encouraging all electric vehicles and encouraging more fuel-efficient vehicles. all of them bring gas consumption and bringing down gas consumption means that the
gas tax revenue is brought down also. this is one of the main reasons we do not see any growth in that the government is furthermore promoting these other alternatives to by giving tax credits and so forth. >> you can see on the right where the revenue fund is flat select from they took and infused it into the highway trust fund. if you follow the washington politics over the last year or two, every now and then there is a deadline precipice that we are going to go over and there's all
these ad hoc fixes over the course of some number of years. if it does extend the deadlines. the states also state also tax gasoline as i mentioned in this is to show held the yellow states of the low taxation states as far as the gasoline tax. red is the height of one and blue is in between. the states have lately been doing an awful lot in this area. they've been raising gasoline taxes. both north carolina had an increase recently that the
legislation they did last year. the legislation is written when it is tied to a certain index but it's actually the estate tax that is greater than the federal tax sometimes by the factor a factor of two or three. so the federal government is seen in all of this very often but the states are in many cases asking for more money from the gas purchaser or the fuel purchase or. the american society of civil engineers as they mentioned in the beginning and i will close with this, about every four years at issue is what it calls a report card for america's infrastructure. it's for potholes and congestion
and so forth. roads and bridges and transit all the categories of infrastructure. and roads and bridges just as the represented representative categories haven't done very well in the course of that report cards. they mean poor, mediocre. as a driver it is something that you don't want. the individual sections of the society of engineers also have their own grading programs and north carolina i thought this would be of interest the north carolina section grades the roads better than the national average and grades the bridge is worse than the national average and that they have a lot to do
>> the. >> approximately. we're talking about a lots of money. talking about where this would come from or how it would be raised by taxes or anything else. so there are talks about what can be done as an alternative to these traditional means to find money with the infrastructure. commission and higher fuel taxes that is obvious but with those elected officials increasingly talk about mileage bases that will be taxed on how many miles you
drive the vehicle per year. california and oregon actually have these test programs going on as we speak about this with u.s. department of two's rotation is offering grants to states to develop ways to implement so it seems there is a lot of emphasis to switch to this method. obviously there are questions of privacy and a debate that will be dragged out over years of not a decade or so. the public-private partnership is another way to find the for structure
but really build them in jobs. there was one short stretch that had a lot of pot holes repaved a couple months ago everybody was happy and got potholes' again bitterly after two months. i attribute that to the fact it was not good workmanship either the materials were inferior or done it a condition where you don't lay down asphalt because it is too cold. but whatever the reason who will pay for it? there should be fair and honest contracts if they will issue a contract for the paving job they should make sure they get what they pay for. if it is not done correctly then what should happen is a contractor should redo the job at the contractor's
expense. if this goes for large jobs like interstate highways and so forth. there are numerous examples of abuses like this. and some cases outright fraud and corruption. the party should be accountable what they contract to do. it will help us save money and should receive the same end as raising taxes is done properly. so i hope i will have inspired some questions. if you have any questions i would be happy to answer
but we'll technology has pluses and minuses to make decisions for further study and so forth. potentially it has potential. >> why do we drive on the right side? >> i a understand it depends on what you read but henry ford put the steering wheel on the left side and people drive on the right side but there were no rules of the road when the automobile was first introduced but i have
seen that introduced model t >> the problem with increasing the vehicle tax with detroit? i didn't mention the trade. jedi? the automobile dealers like everybody else and trucking companies everybody should want the same standards situation in trying to pay less than the other guy is a battle in those trucking companies for example, are
constantly arguing lobbying for water trucks heavier trucks and 84 truck drivers better younker at 18 to drive the biggest trucks of the road. many people see that as a safety problem but the lobby pushes for this because there are issues that they have. >>, what about rail traffic as an alternative? what i know best is roads and bridges but actually the rail traffic in this country as far as freight it is deficient because it keeps a
big truck south road passenger rail is an embarrassment japan has a bullet trains china has almost overnight massive systems and we just have not done that. but the trio -- but the train between d.c. and boston does not live up to the promise that the roadbed is in poor condition and a lot of what i said of what could be said it leads a
very large capital investment so of airports are in the same situation if they have been described as third world countries like gloria is like new york city they fly in to go to the financial capital or the theater capital that is an embarrassment not just the airport by surrounding infrastructure. we have a long way to go. but now we're at this stage we have to maintain or replace. but just is not as glamorous.
but to tear something down in that case politicians can cut the ribbon and few politicians cut a ribbon for potholes'. >> what kinds of things do they do? >> look at the american society of civil engineers said cannot think of a single state that has greeted that infrastructure that much differently i'm sorry north carolina is a little better but it is indeed have to talk about. california has tried but then they get into trouble
but is another way to pay for river structure that i haven't mentioned. and that is one of california's problems. the simple answer is no. [laughter] other than and isolated categories. >> other other countries and have a better safety record than the united states? >> not the developing countries. i would have to look at. that is when i say look at the red line.
so that is the fair comparison you don't want to let it just absolute numbers. i remember having seen those numbers but there very well may be. i am hesitant to say yes or no. i have not looked specifically. in germany they drive very fast. i know how much that affects their accident rate. but now they're down around 33 or 34. for some perspective that is a statement number of death as firearms per year.
ha the head to go with all sorts of different boundaries it isn't always easy to make comparisons. what does that mean? >> how hard is it to tell if the bridges in trouble? all are over 20 feet long to be inspected every two years. and they show signs of trouble every year. they should be like a cookbook you check off of list but in the case of the minneapolis bridge and they
got a relatively good marks but yet there were signs it was in trouble. in particular there was bending in the steel that was not recorded or reported properly. the information is of the people producing and. >> to comment on the difference of a roundabout it seems like new jersey is taking them out. >> it is all fashionable. after the traffic circles we
are adding them here. is the degree deal of difference but i use the terms anonymously. -- synonymous. >> end without a road construction in north carolina and there is always a competition between the west and east and the competition among states is strong. en to discuss that here in in their of those really bad
practices. >> the answer is yes. but it isn't highlighted in the book. it is there. >>. >> that is the political issue. [laughter] that depends on who you talk to. people call me the average person. and i know the previous question and to help people fight but i know about the light rail system. the debate is been going on
with 2007 for many people with a high of consciousness. is with that publicity in with the pitcher of the long span long-term and least every 30 years for a totally different reason. it makes it very difficult for what is going to happen. but there are signs you can look for if it is made longer and longer with the efforts to make it more and
more slender or pretty it is a sure sign it is something to watch if there is the design proposed for there are historical examples with the powers that be got the answers they didn't like it was a consultant to gave them the answer they were looking for. so on a certain level. but with the human nature problem. >> hot what is your
perspective on infrastructure? with a public truce border. what then happens if they get out from the road? >> we have the chapter on that. with autonomous vehicles in the the technology is almost basically here it is a public policy question at this point. our local laws written there has to be a driver in the car? fisa you get into those issues. remember the segue issue that a little scooter? it's going to be a question
if they can have these vehicles. if you can work for google me or somebody who just sit as a passenger. [laughter] >> that is the future of infrastructure. so talk about materials like asphalt and concrete this table will slake science-fiction. >> right now when something new is designed you don't think about up keep the
simple is in boston so what will happen in 30 years? >> good engineers do. because they recognize men and with that of vulnerability but when you are pushing for a new bridge into people are acting like politicians so they don't want to include the cost of maintenance in to build the new building around here. the short answer is people are aware and begin the main
and cost on the bridge to be a 4% per year. usually the stated cost doesn't include the finance charges or the interest charges. so these numbers can be very misleading. so the short answer is yes but they are not sensible. [laughter] would they want to give money to universities it would to building with their name they know what day jitters closet. -- jitters closet but how it gets cleaner the labels get changed.