US Infrastructure Faces An IQ Test

One measure of the stimulus bill's effect on righting the listing ship of the US economy will be how well it allocates monies for domestic infrastructure.

The list of ailments afflicting US highways, water supplies, electricity grids and public transit networks is extensive but most of them could be confronted with more smart technology. California is considering revamping its highways with Vehicle Infrastructure Integration, or VII, a series of electronic tracking systems to monitor traffic volume, accidents and speed to better predict congestion. Onboard instruments in the next generation of smart cars would receive information from VII and communicate updates back, in the event of an accident for instance. Such a system is already in place in Singapore which significantly alleviated congestion in their city center.

Ageing water supply systems are equally if not more in need of rethinking. In the New York area, for example, subterranean aqueducts are prone to serious leaks that some engineers say could compromise the entire city's drinking water if left unfixed. New technologies offer sensors to track leaks in water mains before they start flooding suburban basements.

The number of stakeholders that need to come to consensus on smart infrastructure technology is as daunting as the problems themselves. Federal government, the private sector, state municipalities and citizens must huddle intensely to decide how best to apply the financial opportunity the stimulus presents.

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