What a traffic nightmare it was: Cracks in the truss of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's bridge to New Jersey caused the bridge to be closed to traffic for more than a month to the 42,000 vehicles a day that cross the Delaware River from Bucks to Burlington counties.

People "don't understand the value of investing in the nation's infrastructure," said Celestino "Chuck" R. Pennoni, chairman and founder of Pennoni Associates Inc., a Philadelphia-based civil engineering firm.

"For example, true story, a water main breaks in Manhattan that was scheduled to be replaced, but they didn't come up with the money to replace it," Pennoni said during our Executive Q&A interview published in the business section of Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.

"The water main breaks.  It floods the subways.  They found the money to clean everything up and they found the money to replace it, but they didn't have the money to do it in the first place.  So, it cost a lot more, plus all the interruption of services, businesses and people's lives.  Right?

"The same thing when a bridge gets closed," he said.  "They didn't have the money to properly maintain the bridge, but once the bridge gets closed, they find the money to replace it.  We work from crisis to crisis.

"I'm very proud of some of the things that have been done in this country regarding the environment to protect our planet: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act. They all worked.  They cost a ton of money, but they worked and our environment is better for it.  Our planet is better for it.

"But, we have to do the same thing with our infrastructure: bridges, highways, water mains, gas mains, oil lines, the electric grid.  We can't let that deteriorate either.  That's every bit as important for sustainability in our planet and for passing on a good planet to future generations, as it is for clean air and clean water," he said.

Do you think there’s going to be more spending on infrastructure under this new administration?

Absolutely, absolutely.  And, a number of states this past election cycle had on their ballot bond issues for investing in infrastructure.  Seventy percent of them passed and it represents $240 billion.  So, people are becoming aware.  When you have a bridge in Pittsburgh over a highway on the west side of the Allegheny River and over the highway you have to build a wooden roof because the bridge above it is dropping concrete on the roadway below, I mean, doesn't that tell you we have to do something?

So, the evidence is there -- 55,000 bridges in the United States are structurally deficient.  I mean the American Society of Civil Engineers does an evaluation.  They call it the report card.  We're a D+.

What people don't understand is if some virus comes on the horizon, the medical doctors are the ones that say, `Hey, there's a virus.  Here's what we need to do.'  And, the medical doctors, the research labs and everybody gets a ton of work because they're fighting that virus.

Well, when our infrastructure is deteriorating, the civil engineers are the experts.  So, we say, `Hey, you've got a problem here.  This has to be corrected, and these are the consequences.'  So, I don't hear any more about well, it's self-serving [meaning it could benefit Penonni's company], because people now realize the importance of the infrastructure.

We’ve had so many examples here in Philly.

Well, we know the bridge on the turnpike over the Delaware River.  Fortunately, that failure was found before there was a catastrophe.

You said in our interview that you worry more about the newer structures, because to save money, they were built with thinner and lighter materials. The older ones had more extra safety measures and strong materials.

All structural engineers are taught redundancy.  Redundancy is your friend.  If one member fails, the load gets transferred to another member.  So, the whole structure doesn't fail.  Look at the Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1888.  It's still functioning.  Right here we have the Ben Franklin Bridge, built in 1920. It's still functioning.  The Tappan Zee Bridge about 50 years old or so is being replaced, $3.6 billion dollars.

Next: Life lessons from the son of a coal-mining immigrant who became a CEO.