60 Minutes Hauntingly Showed Us How America's Roads, Bridges, and Railways Are Literally Crumbling

November 24th 2014

Matthew Segal

Editor's Update: Six people are dead and at least 150 people are injured after an Amtrak Northeast regional train derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia last night. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board are currently investigating the tragedy and several press outlets have begun speculating that our nation's outdated infrastructure might be a culprit in the disaster. Aerial footage of the wreckage was captured by the Associated Press in a video below. Several months ago, 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft investigated America's infrastructure woes in what can only be described as a haunting collection of footage and testimony. ATTN:'s recap of 60 Minutes' report is below.  

Crumbling concrete, corroded steel, and collapsing public infrastructure were the subjects of a recent 60 Minutes investigation that will undoubtedly leave you wary. Nearly 70,000 bridges in America --1 in 9 -- are considered "structurally deficient," which, in essence, means potentially dangerous to travel across.  As former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told reporter Steve Kroft, "our infrastructure is on life support right now... there are bridges that need to be really replaced or repaired in a very dramatic way."

An example? The Liberty Bridge in Pittsburgh, PA, which was built in 1928 "when cars and trucks were much lighter." It was designed only to last 50 years, 86 years ago. 

A harrowing reminder of just how serious deficient bridges can be is the 2007 Minneapolis Bridge collapse, which killed 13 people and injured 145. The Skagit River Bridge in Washington state that collapsed earlier this year was even older. 

Bridges are not the only form of public infrastructure in jeopardy however. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 32 percent of the major roads in America are now in poor condition and in need of major repairs. Kroft's interviewees also detail the lack of investment in railways, and specifically high speed rail compared to other countries. 

Recently, ATTN: released an investigative report into the lack of high speed rail in America. We found that two fossil fuel billionaires, the Koch Brothers, were strongly tied to dubious research, advocacy, and PR campaigns to halt its progression. Both brothers have a vested interest in seeing public transit underutilized so oil consumption remains high. 

Which leads back to what Secretary LaHood called the most important form of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund and public infrastructure construction: the gas tax.

The gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1993, is widely regarded as much too low; and without politicians or a vocal public who demand to see it increased, our structurally deficient roads, bridges and railways will remain underfunded and unsafe.   

According to LaHood, public funding for infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since 1947. One of America's greatest historical strengths, our public highway system, has become a weakness.

You can make your voice heard in support of public infrastructure funding by contacting your U.S. Congressmember here