Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

The State of Infrastructure

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

I found this humorous video about the state of Infrastructure as described by John Oliver’s comments on infrastructure.

The funny thing is that he uses the attack on bridges, roads, etc., in movies as the opening comment in his remarks on transportation infrastructure.  He agrees that everyone says infrastructure is key, but also highlights how the funding for transportation remains a challenge.  This was also discussed in another publication, “The Pew Charitable Trusts” issued a report on Funding Challenges in Highway and Transit.  As mentioned in other places, the level of spending is declining while the needs remain.

Mr. Oliver’s recommendation to have a movie on transportation is appealing, and there are plenty of videos on transportation funding, supply chains, etc., in addition to the good work done by the American Society of Civil Engineers “Failure to Act Series” , although I don’t think anyone will rush out for the sequel!



“Summer Hopes” Lambert’s Lagniappe August 2010

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

August is an interesting month, as people head off to long expected vacations, kids return to school, and football practices begin. In some ways, August is a month full of expectations and hope. Hopes that the vacation will leave them refreshed, the kids will excel in school, and that your team wins its respective championship. It seems the same optimism is shaping discussions on freight transportation improvements.

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet with Jolene Molitoris, Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. Ben Ritchey with the Arcadia Group commented after the meeting that when we discussed freight movements, the conversation was very pragmatic. However, when the subject turned onto passenger mobility issues, the focus became more philosophical. This was in contrast to the TRB summer meeting, where I moderated a session on freight corridors. The presenters discussed the importance of broad freight corridors, such as the use of waterways, railroads and building local access that can attract or encourage additional freight traffic. In all cases, the need for long point-to-point freight corridors are seen as important in supporting both regional and national economic growth.

Clearly, philosophy and pragmatism do shape transportation decisions, but the vision of American transportation into the future remains unclear.  Regarding passenger traffic, the discussion tends to focus on the issue of how we will live. The new Urbanism, with a focus on walkable cities connected by public transit, sometimes ignores the global supply chain by assuming everything will be sourced locally. (Michael Vanderbeek with the Port of Long Beach compared this to designing a building without an HVAC system.) At the same time, freight carriers tend to be consumed by pocketbook issues related to regulations and taxes. They expect that the infrastructure they need will be there when their trucks start rolling.

There appear to be some discussion that a clear national policy focusing on prioritizing the main improvements along the corridors may be one approach going forward. This view is echoed by the recently proposed Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation Act of 2010 and the Inland User Board’s recommendations to improve waterway navigation. Such approaches may not be equally shared by all, as priorities are established either by formula competition or by the user community itself to ensure the overall system would get investment in key projects.

Clearly, such a discussion is needed, with strong elements of both theory and reality. The real question is: are these simply summer dreams or will these endure longer than autumn leaves?

“Good Enough”- Lambert’s Lagniappe, October 2009

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Wired Magazine (September 2009) ran an article entitled “The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine”. The article discussed how the Flip camera revolutionized both the camera market, and how in other areas, the trend appears to be looking for simple solutions that adequately performs the required job. While the theory of “good enough” may apply to software, physical infrastructure may be past that point of simply being a convenience. Because of the economic downturn, everyone recognizes that the “new normal” means economic development and competitiveness is a new fact. This implies that the simple solutions of the past may not be the simple solutions in the future.

Earlier this year, KPMG International released a report on a survey of high level industry exec­utives regarding transportation. The report, “Bridging the Global Infrastructure Gap: Views from the Executive Suite”, was based on surveys with 328 high level executives across the globe. The survey, taken between November and December of 2008, reported that only 14% of the respondents believed that infrastructure was adequate for their business, with another 57% stating it was somewhat adequate, with 18% stating it was inadequate. Their outlook dims, as 77% stated that current infrastructure will not be sufficient for long term growth. As this perceived lack of infrastructure begins to influence multinational firms, the strate­gic investment of transportation to promote economic development appears to be more critical. We cannot simply accept a transportation system that is “good enough”. We have an opportunity to reinvigorate our domestic economy by linking our system into the global supply chains, providing jobs for American workers. However, this does not necessarily mean building all new roads and facilities, but learning to leverage and maintain the system already in place.

Recently, I stated that we should be planning on how our grandchildren go to work in thirty years, not where the pothole is today. Fixing today’s potholes may be good enough, but not good enough for our long term success.

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