tv Book Discussion on The Road Taken CSPAN April 24, 2016 8:00am-9:01am EDT
countries like the united states and western europe had been quite content to wage the war against drugs which has a terrible cost on the supply side. the costs are not incurred in their countries did they say as far as we can see we will stop the stuff from getting here. things will change on both fronts. if consumer countries are becoming reduced her countries, they are going to think twice about reading a lapse in the same way they suggest they might be in another country. equally you might find that producer countries, with the columbia upper mexico might start thinking about the issue differently if they start getting this sort of epidemic of drug taking of the sort that we've seen in the rich world. ..
>> welcome to the regular bookshop. ninth street and downtown, durham, north carolina. we are happy to have the altar today. thank you to c-span tv for being here. we are delighted to have henry petoskey who is an acclaimed historian, engineer and best selling author, and also the alexander professor of civil engineering and professor of history at duke here tonight to discuss his new book, "the road
taken." he has written many, many books for both engineers and laypeople alike, some of which are the pencil, pushing the limits, new adventures in engineering. small things considered, and many, many more. and this is the first time that he is here with us today at the regulator. it is such a thrill and i introduce to you -- my boss wanted me to mention to you that we have a collapsed storm water drain in the employee parking lot so we are eager to hear more about infrastructure. thank you. [laughter] [applause] >> thank you very much. i'm pleased to be here. so want to talk about infrastructure in particular, the aspects of it that are discussed in my book. the title of the book "the road
taken" suggests the book is mainly about roads and bridges which i see as extensions of roads, but more generally it's about infrastructure and funding of infrastructure and the problems we have with infrastructure in our nation. bridges our problem -- are a problem. if i could see my slides, i will get used to this. of 6000 total, about one out of nine are problematic, so-called structurally deficient. and that means they need work. that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to collapse, although we know that sometimes that does happen. roads, there are about 4 million miles of roads in this country. only half of them are paid -- paved.
the puddle problem is well known and the question is how do we pay for this? how do we accomplish the repairs were necessary and so forth? how did our infrastructure get to this condition? i always like to look at this historical background of things. the automobile and a motorized vehicles generally have taken a lot of the blame, but even before that we are horses and wagons of course. the roads were pretty bad back then, too. 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 problem of negotiating muddy roads, but automobiles could not. so very often the horses had
come to the rescue of the automobiles. this is just one image of many, many, many that are similar. situation that occurred in 1919, that was very important for the development of this country's infrastructure. the u.s. army wanted to demonstrate its mobilization capability, and they undertook a convoy taking a trip across the country from washington, d.c. to san francisco. we know that's about 3000 miles, roughly. it took them 60 days, largely because of the condition of the roads was just terrible. among the people, the army people in that convoy, was young lieutenant colonel dwight david eisenhower, and this made a very strong impression on him.
we will come back to that, talked about the interstate, the interstates are the much associate with them, and he was a great proponent of the interstate largely because of his experience with this transcontinental journey. there are many illustrations of photos of this transcontinental trip. the question was, what they did find a bridge, wasn't adequate? would stand up under the army trucks? one of the participants in the journey basically said, well, it won't be so bad if some of them break down. we have the crews we need to build him up better. but anyway they did finally make it to california but, of course, as i mentioned it to 60 days. today, depending on how fast you
drive it takes a little us then not. eisenhower was instrumental in promoting legislation in the 1950s as he was president. and one particular piece of legislation, the federal aid highway act of making 56, is a credited with establishing the interstate. what it really did was establish a way to pay for the interstates. the idea of a national system of roads was going around as far as 1920, later in the 1930s the so called into regional roads were promoted and begi began toe built but there was always a question of how do you pay for them. one of the problems is the federal government itself cannot build roads or own roads. the constitution simply doesn't authorize that. so the federal government, but
the federal government can pay for roads and they set up a system whereby they would share with the states namely the cost of building the roads. in fact, in some cases they shared as much as 90% of the cost which is a great incentive. there is a post to this of course by having the federal government involved, there was a standardization state to state, which means it when we cross a state line we don't have to readjust to a different set of rules and a different set of geography, geometry of roads and so forth. the roads today are highly congested, as we all know. when we talk about the state of our infrastructure, we want to give it grades as the american society of civil engineers does. it takes into account not only their condition but also their congestion factor.
if a road is in perfect condition but it's highly congested, it doesn't get a very good mark. now, where does all this come from trucks is congestion anything new? the answer of course is no, there's nothing new under the sun. when there were no cars or horses there was congestion. you could almost argue it was more difficult trying to turn a horse around and keep a horse under control. the streets of cities had great problems. the streetcar was introduced by patches created more congestion. with the motor vehicle being introduced, the situation did not get any better. there were multi-modes of transportation of movement but one mode of congestion, that was basically stopped. so controlling traffic was a big
part of infrastructure, 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, too. it takes sometimes bitterly decades for these things to evolve so they're really doing the job they are supposed to do. so i want to talk about traffic control, and first, fifth avenue in new york city is as good an example as any. in fact, in some ways it's the best because it was such so heavily trafficked. 1909, the pictures of new york going into 1910, 11, and even later they were very, very few, if any, signs or traffic signals or lines of direction anywhere
along the street like fifth avenue or anywhere else in the country. it wasn't that it was understood you knew how to manage through the city. it was just a tad not been developed. nobody had written up a set of rules. there was a fellow, his name was eno. estate actually lives on today through what is called the eno foundation for transportation headquartered in washington i believe that he develops some of the first signs. he developed the first rules for traffic, called them rules for driving. he was a great proponent of the traffic circle, anti-develop rules and principles for that. -- and he developed -- he was
born into a well-to-do family that used to come -- fifth avenue a law. he a point of time jobs of the situation, to absorb what was going on the streets, fifth avenue and the other intersecting street. he came up with rules for driving. but not everybody immediately understood these rules or immediately i thought of them. fifth avenue continued to be pretty much congested as did the streets in chicago, detroit, and elsewhere. the first traffic lights on fifth avenue looked like this. they were put into hours, in large part because there was so much congestion not only of motor vehicles but also of people trying to cross the street and get where they wanted to go. in fact, putting those traffic lights up in the air with making them more visible, and also the
early traffic lights had to be manually operated. there was a policeman who literally had to throw a switch to turn the light from red to green and vice versa. that traffic policeman would be up in a tower to get a better view of what was coming down the avenue. and with its multiple powers like this space several blocks apart, that there is policeman manning and could communicate with each other mostly visually. it worked to a degree but the fifth avenue merchants in particular were not very happy with the looks of these things. they didn't consider them very attractive. so they commissioned, designed competition to replace those traffic towers with something more in keeping with the style that fifth avenue preferred. this was the winning entry from an architect named joseph
friedlander. it was rather successful aesthetically and functionally, but as traffic continue to grow busy, it presented problems of its own because as you can see it's in the middle of the street. so effectively taking out a lane of traffic. so when the cars and trucks would approach this, they would have to squeeze down into another lane. so the fifth avenue merchants association commissioned free lander again to develop another traffic light that would be on the sidewalk and this is a familiar one today in large urban areas. it only had two 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 the different lights me. a few through yellow in there that just added to the confusion. early to light signals, early
three light signals, i should say, the yellow appeared while the red was still on active as a signal that the cream was going to come on just sort of the opposite of what it is today. this just gave driver's licenses sort of rush the green. they took off before the green even appeared. new york lived with this into the '70s actually. it took a while before this three light system that we have now was more of a universally adopted in this country. and again probably because the federal government played a role in sharing the costs of these, we can call them modern signals. and standardizing them and getting people to understand how they should behave when there's
a traffic signal. safety on the highway, we don't have traffic lights on highways, especially the interstates, so how do you regulate traffic there? it's mostly done with lane markers, lines between the lanes and separating oncoming from ongoing traffic. early in the 20th century rule roads had no markings at all your can imagine, they start from basically nothing. that was very dangerous especially when a blind curve was coming up. it was the tendency of drivers to have the insid insight curve, of course, if someone is coming the other way, bad news. the story, and some people consider it possible that some up in michigan noticed a milk
wagon driving along an old country road one day and it was leaking milk out of one of the contest and got tripped a white line behind and that gives someone the idea to put a white line down the center of the road. but anyway, white lines again to appear in upper michigan in 1917. as you know today when you drive on the interstate, the white lines are on the right. there's a solid white line marking the right edge of the road, which is good especially at night because you can tell how to keep from going off on the shoulder. that yellow line on the left keeps you from going off onto the median or into oncoming traffic. it took a little while, literally a decade to standardize. we got used to it and we take it for granted but the you can just
think of driving and very dark conditions or very rainy conditions. it's a real, real lifesaver. accidents were a legion and just look at the red graph, the other line is just population. but the number of accidents started growing exponentially the white automobiles, drivers did. it's a natural initial growth curve. almost everything grows this will initially. and then since the depression in this case, it starts leveling out, drops during world war ii and goes up and starts recovering after the war. but then it starts peaking again. what happened around the late '60s and early '70s?
there were two reasons. one of the main ones was ralph nader published a book, and since were talking in a bookstore, this is relevant, or apps i should obesity. his book, unsafe at any speed, made the automobile the safety vehicle it is today. steering wheel that doesn't entail people in an accident. having dashboards that are somewhat soft. airbags eventually came out of this philosophy. seatbelts. before ralph nader, seat belts and other safety devices were extra. yet the extra for them. let me talk about bridges a little bit. they are symbolic of infrastructure as much as roads are. here's a bridge that looks like a fairly ordinary bridge.
is it safe or is it unsafe? well, this is the minneapolis interstate highway i-35 w. bridge that became famous in 2007 when it collapsed suddenly during rush hour traffic. it took everybody by surprise. it was a bridge that stood for 40 years, had been inspected regularly, which was a federal requirement, and yet this happened to it. this is what is not supposed to happen to infrastructure. as the accident, the cause of the accident was traced to inadequate design, something that should have been caught but wasn't. very sad occurrence. we don't want this to happen, obviously. what happened after that
accident was very interesting because a replacement bridge was built within about a year, something we are not used to, that we can get a bridge built in such a relatively short period of time. this was the drawing, the plan of the replacement bridge. there was a timeline set up. the bridge was built on time. in fact, before the expected delivery date, and it was done on budget. wasn't overrun, and it's the saint anthony falls bridge is what it is called today. interestingly, when a bridge accident does occur and when a bridges rebuilt at the same location, usually we see the bridge, the replacement bridge looking quite different from the original and. obviously, this is for psychological reasons. we don't want remind people of the accident.
lit up at night, the aesthetic. it's also got a lot of what our smart features. it's called the smart bridge, when it starts snowing and icing up in minneapolis, it automatically start spreading deicing components and the tax problems with the bridge. a smart bridge. how do we pay for things like a replacement bridge or paving roads or building a new bridge, so forth and so on? that's really probably the biggest topic in washington these days. it 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 album entirely.
here we are really talking about all levels of government contributing. the states, we pay state taxes, state gasoline taxes and so forth. and locally we pay taxes in some localities also charge tax on gasoline purchases. but anyway the federal government only pays one-fourth of the total cost. typically the states or municipalities will apply for grants from the federal government. where does the federal government get its money for this? is something called the highway trust fund which was established with the interstate highway act, that federal aid of 1956 act, and the highway trust fund is totally dedicated to highways and roads. there should be a few footnotes
but those are really minor. domain revenue into the highway trust fund our gasoline taxes, coetzee fuel taxes because diesel tax also feeds in. there's some minor taxes on sales taxes for trucks and trailers and so forth, but the bulk of it is gasoline and diesel tax. gasoline taxes are of the order of 63% which we see on this slide. this has been a growing problem for over two decades that they gasoline tax, the federal gasoline tax has been 18-point for since the gallon since 1993. that means the red and into this fund has been pretty much frozen because of that. that means that all the new infrastructure problems that we
hear about, expansion of roads, there still room really in the budget to do that stuff based solely on gasoline taxes. and if we're going to continue to improve and maintain infrastructure in the condition that we like it, then we are going to have to look elsewhere. a natural place to look is just raise the gasoline tax. it hasn't been raised. it hasn't kept up with inflation. it hasn't kept up with the needs, but people in washington, those who sent these rules, they have a bad taste for racing taxes, at least gasoline taxes. so there's a lot of talk, and this is the history of the gasoline tax, and you can see where it is flat out at the 18-point for since since 1993.
what are the alternatives to a gasoline tax to raise more money for the highway trust fund? a whole bunch of them that are becoming discussed because it looks pretty clear that the federal government is not going to appreciably change the source of revenue. not going to increase the tax. the reason the federal gasoline tax is not bringing as much revenue does not only because it's been flat in its rate but it's also because the government has been working in opposition to itself. it's been encouraging hybrid vehicles. it's been encouraging all electric vehicles. it's been encouraging more fuel efficient vehicles. all of these bring down gas consumption. bringing down gas consumption means that gas tax revenue is going down also. this is one of the main reasons
why we don't see any growth in that. the government is, furthermore, promoting these alternative vehicle modes by giving tax credits and so forth. this looks a little complicated but it's pretty simple. you can see on the right where the revenue into the fund is flat. those green peaks is what the government took from the general fund or from some other source and infused it into the highway trust fund. and if you follow washington politics at all over the last year or two, every now and then there's a deadline, a precipice, a cliff that we are going to go over. and this is one of them. there's all these ad hoc fixes over the course of the i think
some number of years, there was a short term legislation, three dozen short-term bills that did things like infuse more money and extend deadlines. estates also tax gasoline as i've mentioned. this is just to show how varied it is. the yellow states are generally the low taxation states as far as capital income tax is concerned. the reds on the high winds and the blue ones are in between. lately states have been doing an awful lot in this area. they have been raising gasoline taxes. north carolina had an increased just recently that the legislation mandated i think last year. and sometimes it's actually gone
down because the way the legislation is written when it's tied to a certain index, but generally speaking it's actually the state tax that is greater than the federal tax. sometimes by a factor of two or three. the federal government is seen as the villain in all this very often but, in fact, the states are in many cases asking for more money from the gas purchaser, the fuel purchaser. the american society of civil engineers as i mentioned in the beginning, and i will sort of close with this, about every four years issues what it calls a report card for america's infrastructure. and it grades conditions, remember condition not only means potholes but also congestion and so forth, roads, ridges, transit, dams, canals, all the categories of
infrastructure. and roads and bridges just as representative category have not done too well in the course of the asce report card. d and c+ typical great. not something to be proud of either as a nation or as a driver. it's something you don't want. the individual sections of the american society of civil engineers also have their own grading programs. north carolina, since were in north dilemma i thought this would be of interest. north carolina section of asce great our roads better than the national average. it grades our bridges, however, close to the national average and that may have a lot to do with the bonner bridge which has been an ongoing issue down on the coast.
overall, the infrastructure in north carolina is given a c. grade which is mediocre but still better than the average, the national average, but none of us should be proud of this or of the national state of our infrastructure. the amount of money needed to bring things up to even acceptable standards is generally astronomical. i didn't mention it but on the previous slide, i will just go back to that. wow. las[laughter] i don't know what happened there. i'm glad we are near the end so we will not worried about that. on the bottom, $3.6 trillion is the estimated investments in infrastructure that is needed by 2020, that's only what, a few
years out now. the whole federal budget for one year is $4 trillion, approximately. so we are talking about a lot of money. it's not clear where this would come from or how it would really be raised, whether by taxes or by anything else. so there are beginning to be talks about what can be done as alternatives to the traditional means of finding money for the infrastructure. i mentioned higher fuel taxes. that's sort of a no-brainer, but nobody, whether it's the citizens or elected officials wants that. there's increasingly talk about mileage-based user fees. you were going to be taxed on how many miles you drive in your vehicle per year to this is under development.
california and oregon on actually have test programs going on as we speak about this. the department of transportation, the u.s. department of transportation is offering grants to states and other groups to develop ways of implementing this. so it seems that there's a lot of emphasis to switch over to this method. obviously, there are questions of privacy, questions of people, people who worry about being tracked and so forth. so this will probably meet quite a bit of opposition, a debate that will probably drag out over years if not a decade or so. public-private partnerships is another way of funding the infrastructure that has been talked about increasingly. the idea here is to get somebody other than the government, other
than the citizens through their taxes to pay for the infrastructure. and the way this would work is you want a new highway, you find some investors who are willing to invest in this, make it a toll road, they collect the tolls. that said they would get a return on their investment, and everybody should be happy. the state gets a new road to the investors get a return on their investment. that's a very oversimplification of course but this has been done in quite a few places, but there've also been bankruptcies in this model. so it's not clear what's going to happen. proactive maintenance, too often we wait until they develop
potholes, lots of potholes until we repave the road. that isn't a way to go because by the time you get to that stage it's going to be much more expensive that if you had done a good job all along. there are ways of figuring out how close to being 100% exhausted, say, asphalt is on a given road, if you can't in anticipation of that repave the road, that saves the state money and you get for all practical purposes a new road at the same time. we have to increasingly look for solid initial workmanship of a good time. not shoddy workmanship but really well done job. in my neighborhood, short stretch of road, it had a lot of potholes.
it was repave a couple of months ago. everybody was happy. got potholes again after literally only two months. and i attribute that to the fact that it was not good workmansh workmanship. either the materials in theory or the workmanship was inferior, or it was done in a condition where you don't laid out asphalt, mainly which it is to go. but whatever the reason who is going to pay for it now? i think there should be fair and on his contract if a city like a drum is going to issue a contract for a paving job, they should make sure they get what they pay for it into the paving job is not done correctly, then, of course, what should happen is the contractor should redo the job at the contractors expense. and this goes for large jobs
like interstate highways and so forth. there are numerous examples where there have been abuses like this. and in some cases outright fraud and corruption. so the party should be accountable for what they contracted you. this will help us save money and accomplish the same end as raising taxes, if done properly. well, i think with that i will close down the road here, and hope that i've inspired some questions. and as i say, this is a quick tour through my book. to cover the kinds of things and more, and if you any questions now i would be happy to entertain them. thanks for your attention. [applause]
>> i was wondering what you thought about the solar panels on highways that i've seen on the internet? have you heard of him speak was you mean the ones where you drive over? >> it soaks up the sunlight and solar cells go right into the roads. your thoughts about that? >> if they prove to work effectively, then obviously it's a good idea. highways are obviously open spaces, but they're only going to generate energy if the traffic above them is not congested. so when tha the road gets conged they would be effectively like a big cloud coming over and blocking the sunlight. i don't know an awful lot about that technology, but all
technology usually has its pluses and minuses, and you have to weigh those to really make decisions about whether to adopt or do some more studying, so forth. but potential, something like that has potential. spent i wonder whether your research turned up any interesting arguments on why we drive on the right side speak with i understand, and all of this stuff it depends on what you read, but henry ford in making the model t was the steering wheel on the left side, which make people drive on the right side. as i pointed out before there were no rules of the road so to speak when the automobile was first introduced. i have seen it introduced to the model t automobile.
>> the big problem with increasing the vehicle tax would be detroit or us, or both? >> trucking companies lobby. everybody should really want the same end in the situation. they should want good roads. but it's human nature to want to have good roads but not have to pay any more than the next guy. or ideally in most people's mind through corporations and to go to pays less than the other guy. so it's a battle of lobbyists in washington to a large extent. trucking companies, for example, are constantly arguing lobbying for longer trucks, heavier
trucks, and lately they have been lobbying for truck drivers who are younger, 18, to drive the biggest trucks on the roads. many people see these as a safety problem, but the lobby pushes for this because there are issues that they have. >> what about rail traffic as an alternative? >> i deliberately limited my book to what i know best, namely roads and bridges, but actually our rail traffic is sort of -- outsourced freight, the rail system is pretty good -- as far as freight -- of course moving freight by rail is good because it keeps big trucks off the road. our passenger rail is an
embarrassment on a world stage. japan has a bullet train. france has its train. china has almost overnight brought out massive systems of fast trains. we just haven't done that. but there are little effort here and there your our trains on the so-called northeast corridor roughly between washington, d.c. and boston doesn't live up to the promise. roadbed is important mission and a lot of what i said for roads, for vehicles could be said about the passenger rail in the country. obviously it needs a very large capital investment to bring it up to world standards.
some of our airports have been described as third world countries, like la guardia airport in new york city. people thought into, to go to what new york is like to call the financial capital or the entertainment capital, so forth, is a very big embarrassment, not only the airport itself but the surrounding infrastructure. we have a long way to go. we built up our infrastructure very well, but now we are at the stage where we have to maintain it or replace it. that's just not so glamorous to its just not as glamorous. generally our appetite for getting something down in building something new in its place, in that case politicians can cut the ribbon and get a lot
of credit. few politicians cut a ribbon for filling a puddle, you know? spirit is there any state that does construction particularly well, and what kinds of things do they do? >> well, if we look at the asce, the american society of civil engineers, i can't think of a single state that has graded its infrastructure that much differently from the national -- i was showing north carolina was a little better but that's the kind of differences, not that much, not enough to talk about. california has tried. they get into trouble because they borrow money, which is another way of paying for infrastructure.
you borrow a thin you don't want to get and that's one of california's problems right now. i guess the simple answer to your question is no. [laughter] other than in maybe isolated categories, but over all basically know. you have a question. >> you were mentioning about safety. are there other countries that have better safety record than the united states now? >> well, not the developing countries. they are generally much worse. i would have to look at, that's where the graph were i said look at the red light and not the other one. that other one, that per 100,000 population so that would be the fairest comparison. you would want to look at just
absolute numbers like the red one day. i don't remember having seen those numbers recently. but their very well may be, i visited to say yes or no because i haven't looked at that specifically. -- i'm hesitant. in germany they drive very fast. i don't know how much that affects their accident rates. at the peak, highways that were at about 55,000 in this country, in absolute numbers. now they're down around 33, 34,000. just to put into some perspective that's about the same number of deaths from firearms per year. that's apples and oranges but comparing things, you are going across cultures, going across all sorts of different boundaries.
it's not always easy to make comparisons. if you can make them, and you do make them, what does it really mean? you had a question. >> how hard is it to tell that a bridge is in trouble? >> well, if you inspected correctly, and all bridges in this country over 20 feet long technically are supposed to be inspected at least every two years. and those that may be are showing signs of trouble, every year. it should be sort of a book, you take a list and to check off. but in this case of the minneapolis bridge, which is one that is used a lot as an example these days, it got relatively good marks. it didn't get troublesome marks, and yet there were signs that it was in trouble.
in particular there was bending going on in some of the steel that was not recorded or reported properly. i guess that would fall into the category of the human factor here your information is only as good as the people producing it. >> i was going to ask for you to comment on the difference between a roundabout at a traffic circle. it seems like new jersey is taking out traffic signals and putting in roundabout speak with all of this stuff is sort of fashionable. new jersey has historically had traffic circles the, roundabout is more of a british term i think it we are adding them here in durham, north carolina. function i don't think there's a
great deal of difference, but i use the term synonymous with but i think you could draw a distinction if you drill down into it. you had a question. [inaudible] i'm thinking of road construction in north carolina is a very critical animal. probably universities the most political animal and there's competition between the west and east in the piedmont. the competition among states is also deeply strong. and the resolution of that between the obscene engineers and economists -- >> i to discuss it here and there. i give examples of corruption, really bad practices and document them.
[inaudible] >> right. well, the answer is yes, but it's not highlighted in the book, put it that way. >> what about light rail? doesn'does that have any real it the? >> that's the political issue. i think it depends on who you talk to. i have not followed that closely. people call me a bridge person. this a previous question, i know how people fight for bridges and so forth, but i know about the light rail system, and it's been going on almost as long as i have been, the debate has been going on as long the at times it
is made sense and other times it hasn't made any sense. i'm not sure where it stands. i know at one time it was to incorporate raleigh and the airport, and that's no longer part of it. it would be interesting to look into why the change was made. that would probably give insight into motors and so forth. but i only know what i read in the paper really. you had a question. >> i was going to ask about trucks that you say you're a bridge person. i will shift to bridges. >> i can talk about trucks going over bridges. [laughter] >> i only know in this case what i saw on pbs or someplace a couple years ago about the situation involving i think in elevator drug lord in philadelphia.
i'm wondering which is badly deteriorated and they are literally putting in sister beings evidently to keep this thing from falling in. i wonder if you have tracked that at all? >> i don't recognize that case. it was a case near wilmington, delaware, were a bridge started leaning because some soil problems nearby. but no, i don't recognize that example. >> more generally then, what proportion of our bridge structures then i was in serious condition, as in the high 90 collapse in new york or the minneapolis collapse? >> these examples occur, like minneapolis was 2007, and for many people that's the one
that's high in consciousness because nothing like it has happened since, or gotten the same publicity. so that gives us a sense that we are talking about where it ends, relatively speaking. over the long, the big picture over the long span is that accidents of that kind occurs maybe once every 30 years. and usually for a totally different reason, not always historical reasons. so that makes it very difficult to do, you know, what's going to happen. but they are signed you can look for. if, for example, certain type of bridge is being made longer and longer and longer, and there are efforts to also make it look more slender, prettier, that's a sure sign that that is something
to watch. how do you watch it? you ask experts how good is this design, how safe is this design. at there are historical examples that have arisen, and when the powers that be have gone the answer they didn't like it, they went to another consoles who did give them the answer they were looking for, and the bridge got built and collapsed. so these are again both political to a certain level, and people are -- psychology is probably not the proper word, what human nature is the problem. >> i'm a big fan of your work on evolution of science and the one in your perspective on how infrastructure is going to start to evolve as a start to adopt driverless cars and drivers
public transport. how do you think the roads and things going to change? >> get the awful roads out from underneath the drivers. i do have a chapter on that, and that technology is moving pretty quickly, autonomous vehicles, self driving vehicles. the technology is almost basically here. it becomes a public policy question at this point. our local laws written such that there has to be a driver in the car, and then what does a driver mean? to the laws define driver as a human being? you get into those issues. remember the sacred issue, the little scooter that you stand, going around malls and so forth. there's going to be a question of whether there's going to be a will to have these cars, these
vehicles. [inaudible] >> you can go work for google or somebody but you just sit as a passenger. >> i'm going to take a nap on the way to work. >> that's true. that's the way, that is i think the future of infrastructure. i mentioned the smart bridges. there's talk about materials like asphalt and concrete that can heal itself from cracks, and really things that seemed almost like science fiction but these will come to pass. >> is there right now any thinking when something new is designed, did you ever think about upkeep? the example i have is the big dig in boston. they built all these roads underground. what's going to happen in 30
years to those roads? >> well, engineers, engineers do, because they recognize what they build isn't without fault and without, you know, there are vulnerabilities to where and so forth. but when you're pushing for a new bridge, let's say, mostly it would be the politicians and people acting like politicians, they usually want to present something that's going to be as inexpensive as possible. so they don't want to include the cost of maintenance. that's just not a glamorous topic. it's the same problem with building a new building on a university campus around here. so the short answer is people are aware of it. i've heard, again, you can get numbers all over the map what i heard maintenance costs on a
bridge can be over 4% a year, 4% of the stated cost of the bridge. usually the stated cost of the bridge also doesn't include finance costs, finance charges, interest charges and so forth. so these numbers can be very misleading, unrepresentative of what the real cost is. so the short answer is yes, people think about it. two people do anything sensible about it? no. everybody who wants to give money to a university, often they want a building built with their name. they don't want a janitor's closet with their name, but that's what keeps the building, that's where the light bulbs get changed, where it gets cleaned.