In America, things are not supposed to suffer any breakdown. Ever.
But the reality is that they do, and much of the time, the breakdowns are symptomatic of neglect.
Take New York City, for example. This is the largest city in the United States, with some eight million in the city itself and another 14 million in a densely packed region of suburbs across the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
After a severe winter storm, during the afternoon on January 7th, the largest city airport, John F. Kennedy, reported a water main break, which left about three inches (7-8 cm) deep of water in Terminal 4. Terminal 4 is a major international terminal, hosting Aeroflot, Delta, EgyptAir, and many other significantly large carriers. Further, this break happened near the end of the Christmas / New Year holiday season, when many people are returning to the USA from international travels, in addition to those trying to depart for other points in the world. Terminal 4 had to be shut down because of both the water inside the terminal and the ice outside that formed on the sidewalks and roadways.
Before that, two planes clipped one another on the tarmac at the airport. A China Southern plane tangled with a Kuwait Airways craft and, although no one was injured, the planes were both damaged and this compounded the nightmare taking place at JFK.
The #PAPD Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighter Unit (ARFF) responded to Terminal 4, JFK, last night; a China Southern 777's wing tip struck the tail end of a Kuwait Airways 777 causing damage to both aircraft. #PAPDPROTECTSNYNJ pic.twitter.com/1g2isyyHD4
— Port Authority PBA (@PAPD911) January 6, 2018
The water main break is probably related to an extended period of cold weather in the region. The mercury has failed to reach any higher than 29F (-1 C) at the airport since the evening of December 25th. At times the temperature has been as low as 4F (-15C), and in fact that temperature was reached on the 7th itself.
This temperature was a new record low for the airport, but only by one degree Celsius, and the city has seen even lower temps, approaching -2F (-19C). However, the city gets violent snowstorms, and the question of infrastructure is a real problem.
Two days after the last flake fell, JFK was reeling from the first snowstorm of 2018 with equipment malfunctions, dozens of delayed flights and scores of unhappy customers.
“We’ve been here since 8 a.m., and our flight keeps getting pushed back,” Leah Golubchick told the Daily News Saturday. “At first they said the baggage machine was frozen, so they were unable to take the bags off the plane. Now they said that the plane is snowed in at the hangar!”
“How is 6 inches of snow enough to block a hangar?” the 31-year-old Brooklyn resident asked. “The flight crew and pilots are all here. They’ve been joking about grabbing shovels to help dig the plane out.”
New York City, and JFK airport in particular, is the primary international transit hub in the United States. It handled almost 59 million passengers in 2016. Not only is the airport itself a busy place, but the intra-city transportation networks – road, rail, bus and so on – are also in very heavy demand.
Presently the situation is very frustrating for a great many passengers.
Tensions ran high as thousands shared horror stories. One group managed to forage cardboard and build ramshackle “neighborhoods.” Others were stuck on dark planes on the tarmac for upwards of a day, waiting to deplane or even take off.
“I was on the plane for a good 20 hours,” frustrated traveller Michelle Lopez said told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “They took us out once to eat, then we went back to the plane.”
Dimitri Grigoryev said he had been stuck at the airport for three days.
“This is the third day, starting now,” he said. “There are 300 passengers there and I should say they’re becoming restless.”
The Port Authority said the snowstorm and extreme cold created a cascading series of problems, including frozen equipment, issues with baggage claim, and staff shortages. – Source: cbslocal.com
In all, there were 352 delays and 46 cancelled flights at JFK while the terminal was shut down.
Passenger Jeremy Silver described the late-night madness at gate B23 as a “near riot” when travelers learned of their canceled XL Airways flight.
“It seems as if some punches were thrown as people jostled,” Silver said. “The crowd went nuts booing and shouting.”
“Never seen anything like this level of chaos,” Silver added.
This is an example of ineffective infrastructure in action. It is also just one of many situations which show an immense – but crumbling – infrastructure throughout the United States. A great many American cities suffer problems with traffic control, power, transit and other areas. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the overall grade of D+ to the USA for the state of its infrastructure.
When President Trump ran for election, he made the commitment to upgrade and repair the American infrastructure, promising to use his personal experience as a builder to get projects done “under budget and ahead of schedule.” With 2018 started, all of the US Congress is expected to get onboard the infrastructure bill, and we will see how well this action is carried out.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.