“Technological advances and cultural change can do only so much to fight rust. . . . We can greatly slow corrosion, but we cannot stop it outright. Exposed iron and steel naturally revert to their lowest energy states by giving up their electrons to oxygen and water. The process is formally known as oxidation. Informally, it’s called rusting. By any name, it’s inevitable. “We’re fighting the second law of thermodynamics,” Dunmire likes to say.
At some point, higher concerns must come to bear in a war we can’t win but can’t afford not to wage. Changing America’s report card from a D+ to a B, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, would take $3.6 trillion of investment by 2020. The current shortfall, by the organization’s estimate, is $201 billion annually. The odds of closing that gap, and the costs of failing to, are similar to the odds and costs of the next bridge you drive across collapsing while you’re on it: respectively, minuscule and catastrophic.”
—Tim Heffernan, “Rust Never Sleeps” on The Atlantic