The infrastructure in the US is a topic widely discussed at the moment. In general, every year, around that time when the Infrastructure Report Card is released, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, a.k.a. ASCE it becomes a topic of national coverage. It is not surprising that this year the release of the Report Card was what stirred up the pot again. The grade this year was D+.
The US infrastructure holds 16th place in the world, coming right after Denmark. As a person who comes from a country that holds the last place in the Infrastructure Global Competitiveness Report, i.e. 100th, I can see the 16th place as a goal and great spot to be at. However, this is not what you would expect from one of the biggest economies in the world, right?
For the moment one thing that all politicians and governmental institutions seem to agree on, is that the infrastructure in America is old and needs ongoing maintenance, reconstruction, in some cases complete replacement. Yet, no one has been able to figure out where to get all the funding needed to accomplish all this.
The fact is that the US infrastructure is more expensive to maintain, rather than to replace altogether!
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF)is a transportation fund, which is the main contributor, when it comes to infrastructure maintenance and repairing. The HTF receives money from the Federal Fuel Tax of 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel and related excise taxes. The last change on fuel taxes was in 1993, however a lot has changed on the infrastructure scene since then – there are more and more bridges and roads to be maintained (new ones or the gradually aging existing ones), which has led the HTF’s resources to dry out.
When the question of raising fuel taxes is brought up, however, no one wants to pay more to the government…at the same time, we all enjoy our 6 cylinder monsters on the road.
Of course, the increase in fuel taxes would not only affect the everyday people, but businesses as well. You can take a look at our article discussing how the cost of shipping a car is being calculated and what factors can influence the rates. In order to understand how difficult the situation is, we need to understand what exactly is going on and how important the state of the US roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and public construction is.
In the state of Alabama alone there are more than 2000 dams, and the state itself does not have an inspection agency, not to mention that most of the dams are more than 50 years old and are in desperate need of repair, according to CBS 60 minutes. We also have more than 70 000 bridges in the US, equaling 11% of all bridges that have been classified as structurally deficient, i.e. dangerous! According to Andrew Herrmann, a former President of ASCE, there are more than 4 000 bridges in metropolitan Pittsburg and 20% of them are structurally deficient, while most of them are at the “end of their useful life.” Pittsburg is known as the city of bridges, so it is a shame that main bridges such as the Liberty Bridge, which serves as a connection from the South to the City and then to the North, was built in 1928 and designed to last 50 years….well, we are way beyond that and the bridge is still there crying for repair. Funding, however, is just not enough.
In Pittsburg, they had to build a bridge under a bridge to collect the falling concrete from the bridge above, so that it won’t fall on the traffic below. I suppose that the lack of funding stimulates creativity, when it comes to resolving issues, but the problem is that the issue is not resolved and the bridge is still a dangerous place to go through.
It’s happening across the US.
Even though, Pittsburg stands out with the amount of bridges it has, it is far from being the only city with infrastructure problems. In New York, the Tappan Zee Bridge, which crosses the Hudson River at one of its widest points, is very often referred to as the “Hold Your Breath Bridge”, because of the amount of shakiness you experience while on it.
In Philadelphia, according to CBS 60 minutes, there are more than 9 million people going over 900 structurally deficient bridges on a daily basis. The number of potholes on the roads, cracks and corroded steal on bridges all over America are increasing and have caused numerous accidents, some of which have caused people’s death. For instance, the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge that collapsed in 2007 and caused dozens of cars together with their occupants to end up in the river under the remains of the bridge.
“Infrastructure is not interesting” or that’s what most of the politicians have been saying lately, some even called it “not sexy”, however as always they are wrong. Infrastructure is interesting, because it is important. It is important to people’s well-being, to business development and the economy as a whole. It is what keeps us going, helps us to stay competitive on an international level, and as we can see from the Global Competitiveness Report, in terms of infrastructure the US is falling behind many developed countries.
More importantly, though, the infrastructure’s reliability is something that shouldn’t have to be questioned, period.
And it is not questioned, it is a widely known and slightly “accepted” fact that the infrastructure is suffering, especially when it comes to roads and bridges. The trucking industry is the one industry most affected by this problem. And when the trucking industry is having problems, this affects all other aspects of our lives. It leads to increase in costs due to delays, increase in time needed to get to a location, increase in fuel consumption when a detour needs to be taken.
America runs on trucks and that’s a given, the least the government can do is provide them with safer roads and bridges to drive on.