From Text Messages to Transportation: How Infrastructure Makes it All Possible

Jun 16, 2014

Commercial traffic on the Ohio River averages more than 150 million tons per year. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Meet Jane.

You don’t know her, but Jane is just like you. Every morning, after she wakes up, she turns on her lights, brushes her teeth, takes a shower, texts from her phone, and uses public transportation to get to work.

Sounds a lot like your morning routine, right?

But when you’re brushing your teeth, do you ever speculate as to where, exactly, the water flowing from your faucet came from? What about when you turn on an overhead light and the room you’re in is instantly illuminated—do you ever give a second thought to how the electricity that powers that lamp is created and delivered? What about all the texting you do? Ever wonder how your iPhone zips that MMS message halfway across the world in the blink of an eye?

If you’re like Jane—and you probably are—then there’s a good chance that you only consider these kinds of infrastructure existential questions when something isn’t working. The dreaded non-deliverable text, the water main break that disrupts your plumbing, the power outage that knocks out your electricity—these are the events that likely trigger your infrastructure curiosity.

Yet it’s a good idea to devote a little, or even a lot, of thought to the subject. By investing heavily in its highway, energy, and water systems, the U.S. was able to catapult to the forefront of the global economy. Now, however, the very systems that launched us to economic prosperity are in dire need of upgrades. Failing to act, experts warn, will likely lead to far-reaching economic consequences.

It would also have direct repercussions for businesses. The U.S. interstate highway system not only allows you and your best friends to road trip from Florida to Massachusetts but also plays a critical role in the delivery of a lot of the food you eat. Take, for example, farms in California and Arizona, which generate an inordinate amount of the nation’s produce. They rely on the trucking industry to transport those fruits and vegetables to every corner of the U.S. If a truck carrying your favorite kind of apple hits a pothole and gets a flat tire, you won’t be making that apple pie you’ve been dreaming of all week. The company that bought it from the farm, moreover, is going to have to eat that cost.

This infographic explores the vitally important role infrastructure plays each and every day in the lives of people like Jane (and you). After all, if the U.S. fails to effectively modernize its infrastructure systems you can expect a longer commute and more power outages—not to mention way more of those dreaded undeliverable texts.

From TextMessages to Transportation: How Infrastructure Makes it All Possible
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