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Infrastructure: D (for dilapidated) plus

Highway of Holes, Los Angeles

EVERY four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a “national report card” grading the country on the maintenance and modernisation of its infrastructure. This year, for the first time since 1998, the grade has risen from a miserable D to a slightly less awful D+, thanks to increased spending in six of the 16 categories measured: bridges, drinking water, railways, roads, solid waste and waste water. Other areas, such as aviation and dams, kept the grades they received in the previous report card in 2009. Overall, ASCE thinks America will need to invest $3.6 trillion in infrastructure by 2020.Since civil engineers have a natural interest in urging people to build stuff, these reports could be seen as special-interest pleading. But other outfits too, such as the World Economic Forum, agree that America is underinvesting in its infrastructure and that much more needs to be done.Roads and passenger railways have seen notable improvements. Passenger rail has been the nation’s fastest-growing mode of transport: it carried a record 31.2m people last year, double the number in 2000. But worries…

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