A civil engineering group is preparing to issue its regular report card about the condition of national and state infrastructure next year. Spoiler alert: this isn’t likely to be a grade that will be hung on the refrigerator with pride.
In addition to graver predictions that $4 trillion is needed nationally between 2020 and 2039 to get highways, bridges and transit into an overall state of good repair to spare commuters and their employers time eating delays, a new group of people are being affected – home shoppers.
The bad roads, creaking bridges and the delays caused by more traffic than infrastructure can handle is delaying all those trucks carrying on line purchases that have become the default shopping choice during the coronavirus pandemic.
if you’re shopping from home, lousy roads that cause traffic delays will cost you more money for delivery and time to get your order, experts on a webinar panel held by the American Society of Civil Engineers said Wednesday. A preliminary report, “Failure to Act,” was released the same day.
That prequel report comes in advance of the March 2021 infrastructure grades for the nation and individual states. It said poor condition of roads, bridges and transit and flat funding to get them in to a state of good repair is costing individuals and companies more money for travel time and delays.
Adding injury to that fiscal insult is that it will take long for online orders to be delivered to the doorstep because increased traffic delays mean that some logistics and delivery companies can make fewer trips than in past years, which costs them money.
“For e-commerce it means one less delivery a day. It costs UPS up to $170 million a year and that’s just one logistics company,” said Ed Mortimer, Executive Director of Transportation Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Those costs can have a huge impact on our economy.”
Eventually those higher costs get passed on to consumers in higher delivery fees and more expensive consumer products
“It’s cause and effect. If it costs a trucking company more, that will be passed on,” said Steven Landau, lead author of the report and Executive Vice President at EBP-US. “First it hits businesses and is passed on to the final consumer.”
The report card is issued every four years and the 2017 grade was a D-plus for the nation. New Jersey roads received a D-plus and transit infrastructure was graded D-minus.
The report makes the case that for these reasons, doing nothing will cost individuals and businesses more than raising revenue to fund surface infrastructure improvements over the long term.
“We’ve been hearing this from our engineering community for a long time,” Mortimer said. “This is not new news, we need to modernize our infrastructure.”
While COVID-19 sharply reduced highway and transit traffic in March and April, road traffic volumes have rebounded to approach pre-pandemic levels, said Kristina Swallow, Nevada Secretary of Transportation. Despite spending efficiencies, federal funding is not keeping up with a growth in resident and more demand on highways and transit systems.
“We find ways to operate they system more efficiently, but we will still need more funding,” she said. “If don’t do something, it will affect businesses and residents.”
The report lays blame at federal officials of both parties for failure to increase the national gas tax, which was last increased on Oct. 1, 1993 and instead funding transportation from the general treasury, which experts said was unsustainable.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a 5-cents per-gallon federal gas tax increase for five years to help catch up, Mortimer said.
“If there is something else more sustainable than the gas tax. bring it up,” he said. “This report highlights, the more we wait, the more we pay.”
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Larry Higgs may be reached at [email protected].