newyorker.comWhen the Metro opened, ten years later, in 1976, it was acclaimed as a farsighted fusion of design and utility, a system generations ahead of those in other cities. It’s yet again an example for the nation, but now it’s an example of how underinvestment and political dysfunction have left America with infrastructure that’s failing and often downright dangerous. From the crumbling bridges of California to the overflowing sewage drains of Houston and the rusting railroad tracks in the Northeast Corridor, decaying infrastructure is all around us, and the consequences are so familiar that we barely notice them—like urban traffic congestion, slow-moving trains, and flights that are often disrupted, thanks to an outdated air-traffic-control system.

From the crumbling bridges of California to the overflowing sewage drains of Houston and the rusting railroad tracks in the Northeast Corridor, decaying infrastructure is all around us, and the consequences are so familiar that we barely notice them—like urban traffic congestion, slow-moving trains, and flights that are often disrupted, thanks to an outdated air-traffic-control system. The costs are significant, once you reckon wasted time, lost productivity, poor public-health outcomes, and increased carbon emissions. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor and the author of “Move,” a recent book on the subject, told me, “Infrastructure is such a dull word. But it’s really an issue that touches almost everything.”

Even more egregious than the lack of new investment is our failure to maintain existing infrastructure. You have to spend more on maintenance as infrastructure ages, but we’ve been spending slightly less than we once did. The results are easy to see. In 2013, the Federal Transit Administration estimated that there’s an eighty-six-billion-dollar backlog in deferred maintenance on the nation’s rail and bus lines. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives America’s over-all infrastructure a grade of D-plus, has said that we would need to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020 to bring it up to snuff.

This my friends is opportunity writ large for people who can provide mapping, inspections and other services in all of their myriad forms.

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