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What Is Infrastructure?


Canal Levee in New Orleans

Waves break over an industrial canal levee in New Orleans when Hurricane Gustav strikes in September 2008

Photo © Stephen Morton/Getty Images

Infrastructure is a term architects, engineers, and urban planners use to describe essential facilities, services, and organizational structures for cities and communities. Infrastructure includes:

  • Roads and bridges
  • Mass-transit systems
  • Air control towers
  • Telephone lines and cell phone towers
  • Dams, reservoirs, and sewers
  • Electrical lines
  • Fire stations and equipment
  • Hospitals, clinics, and emergency response systems
  • Schools
  • Law enforcement and prisons
  • Sanitation and waste removal
  • Post offices and mail delivery

Why is Infrastructure Important?

Transportation systems and public utilities are essential for the economic vitality of our businesses and communities, the conservation of fuel and other natural resources, and the comfort and safety of residents and visitors. On the most basic level, every community requires access to clean water and sanitary waste disposal.

Poorly maintained infrastructure can lead to a devastating loss of life and property. Examples of failed infrastructure in the USA include:

Infrastructure and Natural Disasters

When natural disasters strike, stable infrastructure is necessary for swift delivery of emergency supplies and medical care. In Haiti, for example, the lack of well-developed infrastructure contributed to the deaths and injuries suffered during and after the earthquake of January 2010.
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