Imagine sitting in the world’s busiest airport for 11 hours, in the dark, suffering through a power outage while you await a plane ride home for the holidays.
Oh, what fun …
Not really, but you already know that. The drawn-out blackout at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport stopped hundreds of flights dead in their tracks, essentially crippling a major part of the nation’s air-travel infrastructure.
Investigators say the outage was caused by an electrical fire in a tunnel that houses the main power lines to the entire airport property. They also point out the lines that should have provided backup power within seconds were also housed, and destroyed, in the same tunnel.
You don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to understand that putting backup power sources in the same location as main power sources is a mistake, but in this case that was exactly what happened and why thousands of people were stranded in an airport for most of the day, with food supplies dwindling.
The Atlanta airport error is yet another demonstration of what happens when infrastructure fails. The power lines were exactly where they had always been, and apparently no one thought that having primary and backup systems in the same location might pose a problem.
When President Trump was campaigning for his current job, among his many promises was to fix aging infrastructure. Like so many campaign promises from so many past presidents, that one has been left hanging.
For one thing, candidates tend to talk about grand fixes, without considering the costs. In fact, our guess is that if you added up the total costs of actually making the repairs promised by candidates, it would run into the hundreds of trillions of dollars.
The problem is, once the candidate achieves the desired result and gets into office they realize there isn’t enough money on the planet to do all the things they said they were going to do.
Campaigner Trump promised $1 trillion to fix what’s broken in America — not counting our fractured political system — and the problem is that $1 trillion won’t even scratch the surface. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers reckons it would cost a $1-trillion expenditure over the next 10 years just to bring America’s highways back to safe conditions. And that does not include the costs of making the tens of thousands of obsolete bridges safe again.
You can see the problem. The federal government has only so much to spend each year, and the available funds have to spread over a large field of programs and services.
It’s a budget battle that goes on at every level of government. Santa Barbara County is facing an ocean of red ink, even without factoring in the unfunded pension benefits obligation.
So, it comes down to a matter of priorities for government budget setters. For President Trump, it seems building a multi-billion-dollar border wall is more important than making roads and bridges safe again, because you hear more from the Trump administration about the wall than the nation’s aging infrastructure.
Politicians can ignore all sorts of important things, but they won’t be able to put off the infrastructure issues for much longer. Bridges are beginning to collapse and power systems to major public facilities are failing.
Perhaps the thousands stranded by the Atlanta airport failure now get the big picture. They might consider encouraging their elected representatives in Congress and the White House to do some real planning for the future.
This nation and its citizens can’t wait much longer.