Thursday, June 19, 2008

An infrastructured America ...

is a successful, strong America?

Former Indianapolis mayor Bill Hudnut spoke to the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute yesterday about ... of all things ... infrastructure.

"People think infrastructure is a dull subject, but it's not," said Hudnut. "We're facing a silent crisis that is really starting to make a lot of noise."

ULI's Infrastructure 2008: A Competitive Advantage report compared America's infrastructure with countries around the world and found that while some countries, such as India and China were growing and developing their infrastructure, the United States, along with Canada and Australia, are coasting.

And before you argue that China and India are building new infrastructure (so it's not a fair comparison), the UK, Germany, and Spain are retooling and revamping their current infrastructure.

Hudnut pointed to the fact that the country has NO high speed trains, countless levies and bridges that need to be improved, and only one of the world's largest ports.

"Revamping our infrastructure in the global economy will largely determine how successful America will be," he said.

In Memphis, our youngest rail bridge — and we have a lot of rail coming through — was built in 1916. Trains have to slow to 10 mph to cross the bridges, creating a national choke point for rail.

Our vehicle bridges are a little bit newer, built in 1949 and 1979.

There is a plan for a third bridge, but it will be 2012 at the earliest before construction can get started, IF there is funding.

"While we're looking for at the third bridge, we need to be planning for the fourth," said one of the local panelists, Metropolitan Planning Organization administrator Martha Lott.

The problem seems to be that we see these big dollar signs on projects that are needed but not at a critical point (yet) so we put them off. And then we they get critical — or worse, like last year's bridge collapse in Minneapolis — that's when we invest.

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