There’s gotta be a better word than “infrastructure”

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Infrastructure. Can we ban this word? 

It does not flow off the tip of anyone’s tongue. It provides no clues as to its importance in our lives. And it sounds boring.

A thesaurus offers no sexier synonyms, either – substratum, underpinning, groundwork – none of these better explain what infrastructure is and why we should care about it.

If anyone has a suggestion of a one-word replacement that’s snappy and descriptive, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m urging all elected officials, academics, journalists, as well as City & State and NY Slant readers to stop using the word in public discourse and replace it with some of the vivid descriptions below, thanks mostly to Building America's Future.

·   We have as many bridges that need repairing in this country as we have McDonald's franchises. (Including 160 bridges in New York City)

·   Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Alaska still use wooden sewer pipes laid in the 19th century. Over 10 million properties get their water from lead pipes.

·   On average, a significant water line bursts somewhere in the U.S. every two minutes – in New York City they are so common the news media doesn’t even cover them anymore. The U.S. loses about 6 billion gallons of water a day as a result – enough to supply the entire state of California.

·   The train that brings New Jersey commuters to New York City is late every other day.

·   In Chicago, the nation’s biggest rail center, congestion is so bad it takes a freight train longer to get through the city limits than it does to get from the Windy City to Los Angeles.

·   The nation’s electric grid is old. 70 percent of transmission lines and power transformers are 25 years or older, while 60 percent of circuit breakers are more than 30 years old.

·   The average cost of a one-hour power outage is just over $1,000 for a commercial business. Utilities often pass these charges to consumers.

·   D+ is the score we’ve earned from our nation’s engineers, who design, maintain and oversee the nation’s roads, bridges, water and sewer pipes, the electric grid, dams, and airports – our infra- … well, you know, the word I want to ban.

Basically, the bones of our country are cracking. Yet Congress has done very little to help cities pay for the intensive care needed.

That's why we need to do a better job communicating to the public so that back home, away from Washington, D.C., Americans become just as vocal and concerned about their water and sewer pipes as they are about their favorite sports team.

Fortunately both presidential campaigns have position papers on this topic, but unfortunately they don’t spend enough time talking about it on the stump, and when they do, they put many people to sleep.

On her website, Clinton writes America needs “to fix its infrastructure” and promises she will find financing for the upgrades in the first 100 days of her presidency.

Shockingly, Clinton and Trump agree, but not surprisingly, Trump criticizes her for not being bold enough and spending enough. “We need much more money to rebuild our infrastructure,” he said. Few are confident Clinton will be successful fulfilling her promise of funding, much less doubling it, as Trump has proposed.

Enough with “infrastructure.” Let’s start talking about the consequences of doing nothing and maybe the people who control the purse strings will listen.

·   Do you want your children being driven over a rickety bridge in a school bus?

·   You might actually have time to help your children or grandchildren with homework if you weren’t stuck in traffic or on a train that’s behind schedule most of the time.

·   Climate change is making a bad situation worse. We’ve all seen the deadly and costly destruction of pipes, airports, roads and subways from the uber-hurricanes and uber-tornadoes striking people and property, whipped up by the never-ending use of fossil fuels.

·   Lead is bad for children – see the crisis in Flint, Michigan, for reference. It’s not up for debate. Should we really still have lead water pipes?

·   And God forbid we ever have to evacuate a city again because of a terrorist attack. On 9/11, it took me four hours to drive two miles in Washington, D.C., to pick up my daughter at day care.

Surely the stuff that makes it possible for us to live in a relatively civilized society is worth a few more words during this presidential campaign, and a lot more time to drive home the point about how important ________ is.

Karen Hinton is a communications consultant and the former press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio.