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-August 12, 2007


Logistics News: Will Minneapolis Bridge Collapse Spur Investment Needed in U.S. Transportation Infrastructure?


Some Say Yes, but the Funding Requirements are Huge; Dollars Needed are in the Trillions


By SCDigest Editorial Staff


The collapse of the 35W between Minneapolis and St. Paul has some people seeing a silver lining in the tragedy – that this powerful sign of the poor state of U.S. logistics infrastructure will result in real action to address the issues. To date, the publicity and recommendations from various groups and commissions has been strong and united in the need to make massive infrastructure improvements, but this has, in reality, led to only modest governmental efforts (See Transportation Infrastructure and the Future of U.S. Logistics).

"If there is a silver lining to all of this, it will be the renewed focus on the enormous needs of our transportation infrastructure system," Janet Kavinoky, Director of Transportation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. "We owe it to the memories of those who died to react productively and thoughtfully to this tragedy by renewing our roads, rails, waterways, ports and aviation systems."

In fact, just hours before the collapse, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.) had introduced legislation calling for a new trust to fund infrastructure upgrades.

But such recommendations and legislation proposals have largely failed to result in real action. The problem: not so much a lack of political will as a real lack of available money.

The dollars required to implement all of the improvements some would like to see are simply huge – and probably unrealistic. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers has published data saying it will require $1.6 trillion over just the next five years for needed improvements to the nation's roads, bridges, dams, water systems and airports. Repairing deficient bridges alone would cost $188 billion over 20 years.

Or consider this: it is estimated that the improvements needed in roads and related improvements in Chicago alone is $61 billion over the next 20 years – just to keep pace with growing usage, and not to make any improvements in current congestion. Estimates in cities like Dallas and Atlanta are similarly in the many tens of billions of dollars just to maintain current congestion levels.

In an era of rising oil prices, raising gasoline taxes at either the federal or state level would likely prove very unpopular. At the same time, road and related construction costs are estimated to have risen 50% since 1999.

SCDigest expects the Minneapolis bridge incident will spur some local and national effort and spending specifically around bridge safety, inspection and repair, but not much on overall logistics infrastructure improvement.

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