We don’t have bridges being built. We have bridges that are falling.
This statement is from no other than the president-elect of the United States of America.
Indeed, even if we are not infrastructure management experts, we can tell that USA is in dire need of an infrastructure revitalization.
To give a glimpse of how dire the situation is, the Associated Press once reported that out of 607,380 bridges checked by the National Bridge Inventory, about 65, were classified as “structurally deficient”.
On the other hand, approximately 20,808 bridges are considered “fracture critical.”
Moreover, a total of 7,795 bridges were considered as double red flags, being in a state of significant disrepair with a very high possibility of collapse.
These very same bridges serve more than 29 million drivers a day.
The thinning steel underpinnings, rusting spans, and cracking concrete of these infrastructures are glaring indications that using them entails risks and that they are begging for rehabilitation.
Despite infrastructure management resources, is it true that the US is having a low report card in the bridge building game?
A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration would tell us that there is a consistent rising trend on federal spending as the country’s attempt in economic stimulus.
According to a spokesman from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the problem is not the lack of spending on bridges, it is the overwhelming demand for these infrastructures – so much that the building of bridges cannot keep pace with it.
Reports show that in the last three decades, the number of cars doubled, but bridge capacity and the number of roads only increased by 7%.
On the other hand, an article in The Economist (can you give a link to the article?) posited that, indeed, America is lagging the rest of the industrialized countries when it comes to investing in critical infrastructures like bridges.
According to the article, the total American government investment on infrastructure is only 2.4% of the GDP.
How are we faring against other highly industrialized countries?
The same article says that, by contrast, Europe generally spends 5% of GDP on infrastructure. Meanwhile, the industrial powerhouse China pushes an investment of 9% of GDP on infrastructure.
How sluggish is our infrastructure expense?
Studies show that America’s spending in infrastructure has not been at par its European counterparts for over 50 years.
Now, this “underspending” is indeed a major setback for infrastructure asset management in the USA.
However, considering the recent pronouncements of the president-elect, the outlook for utility infrastructure management is less bleak.
At the very least, infrastructure investment is at the frontline of the current US administration’s national program, in the hope to make America’s infrastructure great again.