The tragic collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis last year is a dramatic illustration of the need to increase our national investment in infrastructure. In 2005, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our infrastructure a “D,” and warned that a failure to invest would lead to “congested highways, overflowing sewers and corroding bridges.” New technologies can help address this crisis.
The federal government should increase investment in research, development, and demonstration projects that will help improve our public infrastructure. For instance, researchers at UC Berkeley and other universities have developed wireless sensor networks that can monitor the structural health of bridges and reduce highway congestion by providing a realtime “map” of traffic flows.
Innovation is also desperately needed in our air traffic control system to help cope with a doubling or even tripling of passengers by 2025. A next generation system would use technologies such as satellite-based precision navigation, Global Positioning System capabilities, advanced networks, improved weather forecasting, and traffic flow management tools. Such a system would shift decisionmaking from the ground to the cockpit, increasing capacity and safety while reducing delays, fuel consumption, noise, and emissions.
For more on CAP’s policies for increasing innovation in science and technology, please see: