The nation's roads, bridges, airports, water and transit systems are in bad shape, according to the civil engineers who plan and design such infrastructure.
Every four years, the
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a
Report Card for America's Infrastructure depicting the condition and performance of American infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card-assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement.
According to the report, the United States' 926 ports are essential to the nation's competitiveness, serving as the gateway through which 99% of overseas trade passes. Ports are responsible for $4.6 trillion in economic activity - roughly 26% of the U.S. economy. As ships get bigger, congestion at landside connections to other components of the freight network increasingly hinders ports' productivity. Similarly, on the water side, larger ships require deeper navigation channels, which only a few U.S. ports currently have. To remain competitive globally and with one another, ports have been investing in expansion, modernization, and repair.
The Port of Redwood City, for example, opened its $17 million modernized wharf, the
first of its kind for cargo ships in the San Francisco Bay Area that meets the latest operational, seismic and sea level design standards for both it and adjacent shoreline, in April 2014.
Additional wharf improvements are scheduled for this summer.
The modernized wharf replaced a 60-year-old World War II era wooden wharf with a new bulk handling concrete wharf designed to meet present demands. The wharf is used to dock dry bulk ships of a size known as "Panamax," the largest ships currently able to pass through the Panama Canal. From the deck of the new wharf, mobile cranes and large hoppers are able to load/unload ships. Thirty-foot-wide concrete ramps connect the wharf to the shore.
Construction began in September 2012 with the demolition of the old wooden Wharves 1 and 2 and the adjacent warehouse. A 950-foot-long seawall designed to meet storm surges and predicted sea level rise has been built along the shore of the port adjacent to the modernized wharf. Additional project improvements included a new 2,100 square-foot longshoreman's building, upgraded water/electrical utilities, new seismic monitoring equipment, new security fencing and gates, exterior lighting and parking.
The new concrete wharf is located on the northern end of the Redwood Harbor Ship Channel and is situated between a Cemex cement marine terminal and a Sims Metals scrap iron terminal. The new portion of the wharves is approximately 430 feet long and 60 feet wide with two access ramps located at the north and south edges of the wharf. It is also two feet higher to account to any sea level rise.
The project was financed in part by a $10 million 2012 Port Revenue Bond and Port capital project reserves, which had been set aside for years in planning for construction of this new wharf.
According to ASCE's new report on Ports (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/ports/), to remain competitive globally and with one another, ports have been investing in their facilities, as noted above for the Port of Redwood City, and plan to spend $154 billion through 2020 on expansion, modernization, and repair.
However, connections to these ports are in need of modernization, including roads, rail, and inland waterways on the landside, and navigation channels on the water side. Landside connections are scheduled to receive only $11 billion in new federal funding for freight improvements through 2020, yet the baseline projected needs total $29 billion.
The ASCE says these recommendations must be addressed for the nation's ports:
- Increase overall investment into the freight program to ensure ports can effectively distribute and receive goods as ships continue to grow in size.
- Appropriate funds to the congressionally-authorized projects to ensure that projects crucial to freight movement are completed in a timely manner.
- Ensure that ports have a seat at the table as states create and execute freight plans.
- Adopt new technologies to reduce wait times at docks, boost efficiency, and increase security.
- Improve freight and landside connections to strengthen the entire freight system and reduce congestion that is costly to the economy when moving goods.
The report concludes, "
Our nation is at a crossroads. Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future. While we have made some progress, reversing the trajectory after decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people."
Getting all of the nation's infrastructure into relatively good shape by the year 2025 would cost $4.59 trillion, according to the ASCE report; that's $2 trillion more than if budgeted by local, state and federal governments to address infrastructure needs.