The United States Has Forgotten how to make bridge quality steel

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was a feat of American engineering when it was built across New York’s harbor in the 1960s. Now, it’s being repaired with steel made in China.

Chinese bridge steel was cheaper.
US steel contractors either went out of business or get very few projects and thus have little active experience.
Chinese companies have become specialists in making parts for bridges across the U.S.

Last year, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded a $235.7 million contract to a California contractor to repair the Verrazano-Narrows, a towering suspension bridge that is still the longest in the U.S.

The contractor, Tutor Perini, subcontracted the fabrication of steel decks for the bridge to China Railway Shanhaiguan Bridge Group, which the MTA says is using 15,000 tons of steel plate made by China’s Anshan Iron and Steel Group.

U.S. steel mills, meanwhile, have been increasingly inactive. As of June 15, their production had fallen to 76.7% of their capacity from 78.8% a year earlier. The U.S. produced 88.6 million tons in 2012, 5.7% of the world’s total.

In rapidly urbanizing China, such construction is booming. “The Chinese are building many more of these kinds of bridges, so they have more fabricators,” Mr. McEleney said.

The USA and Europe Need to have systems where constant infrastructure activity is generated

The US has become dependent upon Chinese expertise and supplies.
Infrastructure like bridges and powergrid transformers can last for a hundred years but if let your maintenance and replacement fall to 1% or less per year of your total stock then you will not have the capacity or trained staff to deal with it.

There needs to be sustainable (over hundreds of years) and robust maintenance plans and constantly maintained capability. If you are going to grow at less than 1% per year then you have to purposely rebuild and replace large sections every ten years or so. Institutions need to have fresh experience at the leading edge.

The US powergrid has been built over more one hundred years. The biggest transformers are all unique and built and different times. They are large and parts cannot be transported because they were originally put in place on special heavy duty rail track and rail cars.

There was a project to replace one of the transformers with three smaller modules. This was done in days instead of 6-8 weeks

It is not just maintaining strategic capabilities in case of a war.
It is about civilization robustness running at cross purposes to quarterly and annual budgets. It runs against using just in time supply chain to boost profits.

Shinto Shrines rebuilt every 20 years

Shinto shrines have unique wood and nailless construction and some have existed since 250 AD. They are taken apart and rebuilt every 20 years. This preserves and hands down the craftsman knowledge of how to build them. They could be left to stand for 100 or 200 years, but if they actually needed to be repaired or rebuilt at that point then who would remember how to do it or have any experience ?

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