Executive Intelligence Review
Subscribe to EIR


These Policy Steps on U.S. Infrastructure Qualify as Insane

July 17, 2017 (EIRNS)—With transportation infrastructure visibly breaking down in two of the nation’s three largest cities as well as in the vital Northeast Rail Corridor, the House Transportation/Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, reported out of the Appropriations Committee on July 14, eliminated the Federal so-called TIGER grants (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) completely—from $500 million to zero. The bill, now going to the House floor for a vote, cut the overall budget of the Transportation Department by 8% in absolute terms.

TIGER grants are also used to improve port infrastructure; and inland waterway dams and locks are renewed by a Federal loan program through the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers (USACE)—a program cut by 54% in the same appropriations budget. American agriculture exports are beginning to be threatened not by price competition or unfair trade, but by crumbling inland waterway infrastructure, which was given a D overall mark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC) on July 14 released its second in a series of White Papers that describes the decline of national freight infrastructure. Called "The Vital Role of U.S. Transportation Infrastructure in Moving Agriculture Forward," the paper reviews the impact of deteriorating infrastructure on U.S. agricultural competitiveness, focusing on soybeans grown in Illinois and Iowa. There has just been a very large sale of soybeans to China, but 58% of soybeans pass through locks on the Illinois, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers and leave the United States through Gulf ports.

"More than half of the locks are over 50 years old. The LaGrange Lock on the Illinois River is 80 years old, with concrete crumbling and other critical components difficult to maintain....

"Between 2000 and 2014, the average delay per lock nearly doubled and ... 49 percent of vessels experienced delays in 2014,"

more today.

The backlog of inland waterway maintenance to be done by the U.S.ACE keeps growing—it is now at $600 million—and the time to schedule and make a major renovation/replacement has grown to decades.

Meanwhile, renewing city and town water infrastructure across the United States requires at least $50 billion in annual spending over decades; but Federal funding for it is just 25% of what it was 40 years ago, in real terms. A $500 million loan fund for rural towns is likely to be eliminated by Congress this year. So, 48 public water/sewer utilities were sold to private companies in 2015; 53 more in 2016; 23 more in the first quarter of 2017.