This week’s steam pipe explosion in New York City has once again reminded its inhabitants that the city is in need of major repairs. It has gone too long without the update of vital resources to keep the city going, and incidents will continue to occur and most likely become more serious as problems go untreated. In fact, many American cities are buckling under ancient infrastructures that, while costly, will cost even more if similar signs continue to be ignored. Ignoring it in the first place has also led to experts being unable to determine what should be fixed first.

New York City has been showing signs of strain for years. The city’s infrastructure is over 100 years old. Not only were things newer then but the city was much smaller and able to easily support the load it carried. This is no longer the case. Now, sewage, electricity, and steam pipes are working overtime to keep the city running, and they are not always able to do this. New York has the largest steam system in the world with over 100 miles of mains and service pipes that run throughout the city. These services are used in the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, dry cleaners, and hospitals. While steam explosions like the one that erupted last week are rare and decreasing, they do occur.

Electricity is also a problem. New York is also credited with having the largest electrical system in the world with 91,000 miles of underground cables. Last summer, New Yorkers were caught in a blackout throughout Queens. A similar event happened in 2003 when a lot of the Northeast was blacked out. Sidewalk utility panels have been known to shock pedestrians and pets when it rains in New York and Boston. Despite all of its electrical systems, it is behind in providing citizens with wireless Internet access as well as DSL in poorer neighborhoods.

The largest consumer of New York’s electricity is the subway system which requires power to operate trains, signals, light stations and tunnels. It is said to use as much power as the city of Buffalo, New York. This system itself also needs an update and has needed it since the 1970s despite a $26 million repair project since then. It is said that the trains still run on a system developed in 1872, and a technological update could easily make the system more efficient.

New York’s sewage system consists of two tunnels built in 1917 and 1936 to be used for drinking water. A new tunnel is under construction but won’t be completed until 2020. Currently, whenever it rains, the tunnels back up and sewage is dumped without being treated and ends up in the city’s waterways.

To get the nation’s sewage systems along with road work and airport updates back on track will cost $1.6 trillion dollars. While cities are looking for flashier, technological advances to boast about, these cosmetic improvements will mean nothing if the city that they’re operating in has its vital organs fail on them.

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