Tag Archive for 'bridges'

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ARTBA Reports:As Collapse of Federal Support for Highway & Bridge Investment Draws Near, More than 63,000 U.S. Bridges Need Structural Repair, New Analysis Find

image001Data from a new government report show that if all the structurally deficient bridges in the United States were placed end-to-end, it would take you 25 hours driving 60 miles per hour to cross them.  That’s like driving the 1,500 miles between Boston and Miami.  And it’s a problem that’s close to home.

An analysis of the 2013 National Bridge Inventory database recently released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) shows cars, trucks and school buses cross the nation’s more than 63,000 structurally compromised bridges 250 million times every day.  The most heavily traveled are on the Interstate system.

The problem could get a lot worse, the chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says, as states across the nation face a slowdown in reimbursements for already approved federal-aid highway projects in August.  Without congressional action, Dr. Alison Premo Black says there will be no Highway Trust Fund support for any new road, bridge, or public transportation projects in any state during FY 2015, which begins October 1.

“Letting the Highway Trust Fund investment dry up would have a devastating impact on bridge repairs,” Black says, noting the trust fund has supported $89 billion in bridge construction work by the states over the past 10 years.  “It would set back bridge improvements in every state for the next decade.”

“The bridge problem sits squarely on the backs of our elected officials,” Black says.  “The state transportation departments can’t just wave a magic wand and make the problem go away.  It takes committed investment by our legislators.  Members of Congress need to come to grips with that.  Some of our most heavily travelled bridges were built in the 1930s.  Most are more than 40 years old.”

Bridge decks and support structures are regularly inspected by the state transportation departments for deterioration and are rated on a scale of zero to nine—nine being “excellent” condition.  A bridge is classified as structurally deficient and in need of repair if its overall rating is four or below.

While these bridges may not be imminently unsafe, ARTBA suggests they be sign posted so the public knows they have structural deficiencies that need repair.

The ARTBA analysis of the bridge data supplied by the states to the USDOT found:

  • The 250 most heavily crossed structurally deficient bridges are on urban interstate highways, particularly in California.  With one exception, all are at least 39 years old.
  • Pennsylvania (5,218), Iowa (5,043), Oklahoma (4,227), Missouri (3,357) and California (2,769) have the highest number of structurally deficient bridges; Nevada (36), Delaware (56), Utah (117), Alaska (133) and Hawaii (144), the least.
  • At least 20 percent of the bridges in four states—Pennsylvania (23 percent), Rhode Island (22 percent), Iowa (21 percent) and South Dakota (21 percent)—fall in the structurally deficient category.

State specific bridge information from the analysis—including rankings and location lists of the 250 most heavily travelled structurally deficient bridges in the nation and 10 most heavily travelled in each state—is available in the “Economics” section of www.artba.org.

Established in 1902, ARTBA is the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry in the Nation’s Capital.

The Socio-economic Importance of Road Construction

By Krysten Jetson

Airoport

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airport

Excellent infrastructure is the backbone and chief driver of socio-economic development, which every country strives to achieve. In the US during the 1950s and 1960s, massive and strategic investment was made to build world-class interstate highway systems and transportation infrastructure. All this contributed in making our country the undisputed world leader and an economic superpower. Investment in surface transportation helps to connect people, drive commerce and maintain global competitiveness. At the aggregate level, efficient transport systems reduce costs in many economic sectors by providing better accessibility to markets, increasing employment, bringing in foreign investment and improving global presence of countries. Transport carries an important social, economic and environmental load, which can never be over-stated.

The socio-economic significance of infrastructure development is extensive. Let’s have a look into the impact of infrastructure development on our lives.

Economic effects of transportation infrastructure

In the US, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance of our infrastructure. Once the envy of the world, America’s critical infrastructure, including its roads, bridges, mass transit systems and systems for delivering energy, may soon find it difficult to meet society’s needs. Let’s see how the transport infrastructure affects the economy.

1)    Mobility and economic effects. Economies that possess greater mobility are often those with better opportunities to develop, than those with scarce mobility. Reduced mobility impedes development while greater mobility is a catalyst for development. According to recent reports, forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. Better roads and connectivity can translate into massive savings, both for the state as well as citizens. Transportation also weaves a complex web of relationships between consumer, manufacturer and distributor. The productivity of space, capital and labor is enhanced with the efficiency of distribution and personal mobility.

  • Less cost. A more efficient distribution and procurement network directly results in lesser prices for consumers. This is because transportation costs form a major chunk of the total cost of each output in manufacturing.
  • Wider reach to business. With better transport facilities there is access to a wider market or consumer base which leads to better economies of scale in production, distribution and consumption.
  • Better and diverse products. Good infrastructures give access to larger and diverse base of quality inputs, and broader markets for diverse outputs. This is good for the consumer as well as the manufacturer.
  • Increased competition. When transportation is efficient, there is a wider market for goods and services, resulting in increased competition. A wider array of goods and services to choose from, reduced cost and improved quality are some of the benefits passed on to the consumers. Also, this promotes innovation and technological advancement.

2)    Mobility and economic opportunities. Transportation development and improvement that took place since industrial revolution has shaped and transformed economies and social geography of nations.

  • Attractive to foreign investors. Excellent infrastructure has always made the US an attractive destination for global corporations to invest and do business in. Good connectivity lowers transport costs, and contributes to reliable and cost-efficient supply chain management. A poor transport service level can negatively affect the competitiveness of regions and corporations, and thus have a negative impact on the brand value of our country.
  • Attractive to new-age businesses. Transport infrastructure is always important, but their relative importance in supporting the changing demands of economy  may evolve. When an economy shifts from being manufacturing-based to service-based, there is more orientation towards efficiency of logistics and urban transportation. An infrastructure that grows and evolves to support the changing needs of the economy is attractive to both businesses as well as stakeholders like new-age employees and students.
  • Increased employment opportunities. A growing economy opens up new and expanding range of employment potential as well. New businesses and sunrise industries are voracious creators of job opportunities. The ‘feel good’ vibe that they bring into ageing, developed economies can be quite rejuvenating and energizing. Transport systems need to evolve in time and space as they include the timing and the nature of the impact of transport on economic development.

Social effects of transportation infrastructure

Roads and bridges change the face of landscapes. Increased connectivity brings societies closer to the outside world, and brings in influences from far and wide. The societal and cultural impacts are many.

  • Mobility benefits. Though societies on the whole reap benefits of growing and improved connectivity, some people enjoy it more than the others. Higher the income, the more the opportunity to benefit from infrastructure growth and economic opportunities. They also have increased ability to afford travel. Inclusive growth, by promoting connectivity in rural, under-developed and poorer regions can help all sections of society benefit.
  • Rising land value. With roads and highways linking vast areas of land with cities and towns, land prices also show a trickle-down effect from those in urban locations. There has been quite marked and sharp increase in land prices observed once infrastructure improves.
  • Improved quality of life. When transportation facilities increase, especially in far-flung and land-locked areas, prices of goods and services come down drastically. A wider array of products is available at reasonable prices. This helps to improve household finance and savings.
  • Congestion and accidents. A growing population and ageing infrastructure leads to overcrowding and congestion in urban areas. Serpentine traffic-jams lead to wastage of time, fuel and energy. Accidents also become common. Environmental pollution used to be a major issue, but with strict emission laws there is a continued effort to curb the menace.

Conclusion

Infrastructure determines the longevity and success of a nation. A good, upgraded and efficient transport infrastructure is essential for a strong and thriving economy. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, an investment of $3.6 trillion will be needed by 2020 for the repair, upgrade and development of infrastructure. But the available funds are nowhere near this gigantic figure. Experts say that while it is important to have more money because the needs are so great, there is also a need to cut spending on shiny new projects in places with insufficient demand. The authorities need to spend on maintaining and improving infrastructure in the places with some of the greatest need.

Author Bio:

Krysten Jetson is a freelance writer specializing in the construction industry. She loves sharing her expertise on various aspects of the construction industry, especially safety, such as fall protection, workers safety etc. She has many years of professional experience including working with clients to build their business and brand through internet marketing strategies.

All Jammed Up

BY: HANNAH HAMILTONUSGS

HHAMILTON@USGSGOV, ETHAN ALPERN EALPERN@USGS.GOV

lookingDSfromBridgeIce Jams in Powder River at Arvada, WY, downstream of the bridge.

April showers may bring May flowers, but spring can also bring ice jams to the thawing rivers and streams across the northern United States.

An ice jam or ice dam, is a buildup of broken ice in the river system. It can be a problem that causes the water to back up over the top of highway bridges, roads, or into cities. At times, they can cause flooding. Ice jams can be large–backing up water for miles, or small and only back up water in a small area locally.

An ice jam can damage bridges with the amount of water pushing on the jam from behind; it can force the ice to push the bridge – moving it slightly.

USGS monitors ice jams across the north using cameras as well as by collecting ice thickness information when technicians do regular streamgage work or when measuring discharge on the rivers in the spring.

For example, each year, the Maine Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Coast Guard asks the USGS to measure the ice thickness and provide an ice jam flood potential on the Kennebec River. The U.S. Coast Guard has used their ice breakers to clear the ice in the lower Kennebec River in years when the ice jam flood potential was high.

Skunk_River_at_Augusta_-_large_fileIce breakup on the Skunk River

Greg Stewart, data section chief for the USGS New England Water Science Center, said its part of the agency’s job to monitor river flows throughout the state of Maine and to measure the stream flow underneath the ice.

USGS technicians take ice cores to measure ice thickness at various places on the rivers. In order to make an ice measurement, it’s necessary to drill between 25-30 holes in the ice. Then, thickness is recorded at just several of the holes to help document the measurement conditions.

That information allows the USGS to assess the risk of ice jams, flooding or other problems when the ice begins to melt, Stewart said. According to Stewart, when ice jam flooding starts to happen, there is very little time and very little warning.

Thickness of the ice and how fast a melt occurs affects the ice jam flooding potential. For example while the weather is cold, and the water is freezing you have ice accumulation. When the weather changes and it starts to warm the ice begins to melt and begins to break up. A quick warmup with the ice strong and still in place can cause significant ice jam flooding.

Another sign of spring is the melting snowpack, which is the result of accumulated layers of snow with generally more at high altitudes. Snowpacks feed rivers and streams providing an aquatic life habitat, hydro power, a possible source of drinking water, but they are also a potential flood hazard.

With a quick warm up of high temperatures over a short period of time, there is an increased likelihood of flooding from snowpack melt, but when you have a gradual increase in spring temperatures with moderate temperatures during the day and slightly below freezing at night the flooding potential is decreased slowly and safely.

According to Stewart, when the snowpack starts to melt, historically in March, that’s when snowmelt driven runoff begins and the USGS looks at the flooding potential.

To learn about the water levels at a streamgage near you sign up for alerts to your email or cell phone here!

Learn More:

Episode 6: Ice jams, flooding likely in Nebraska this spring, transcript: March 4, 2010

Thompson Bridge (Red River) Image Gallery

Ice Jam on the Niobrara River

Ice breakup at South Fork Grand River near Cash, SD

CATEGORIES: FEATURED, WATER

POSTED ON APRIL 9, 2014 AT 9:14 AM

LAST UPDATE 8:07 AM BY: HANNAH HAMILTON HHAMILTON@USGSGOV, ETHAN ALPERN EALPERN@USGS.GOV

ARTBA Launches “Transportation Investment Advocate Center” To Help Move State & Local Campaigns

image001The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) recently announced the start-up of the “Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™” (TIAC), a first-of-its kind, dynamic education program and internet-based information resource.  The program is aimed at helping private citizens, legislators, organizations and businesses successfully grow transportation infrastructure resources at the state and local levels through the legislative and ballot initiative processes.

The cornerstone of the new program is the website, www.transportationinvestment.org.  ARTBA Chairman Doug Black says the site has been structured “so those interested in making action happen do not have to ‘re-invent the wheel’ to mount successful campaigns.” The idea, he said, is “to put in one place—and promote the sharing of—current strategies, sample political and communications tools, legislative and ballot initiative language, and information on where to obtain professional campaign advice, research and help.”

image003The transportationinvestment.org site features 39 detailed case studies of recent transportation funding campaigns—both successful and unsuccessful—mounted in 28 states.  It includes the actual television, radio and print ads, polling data, and media and coalition strategies used in the campaigns.  The site features a blog, which will be updated regularly with new developments and economic-based research and messaging developed by ARTBA to help frame the political debate.  An overview of funding and financing mechanisms utilized to support state and local transportation programs is also included.

Complementing the dynamic website site, the TIAC program includes an annual workshop to be held in Washington, D.C., and ongoing webinars for transportation investment advocates featuring case studies, best practices, and the latest in political and media strategies.

The inaugural “National Workshop for State & Local Transportation Advocates™” will be held July 16 at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill.  The workshop will be marketed to state and local chamber of commerce executives, state legislators, state and local transportation officials, “Better Roads & Transportation” group members, industry and labor executives, and leaders of state and local chapters of national organizations with an interest in transportation development programs.

The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ is a project of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s “Transportation Makes America Work!” (TMAW) program and funded through voluntary contributions and sponsorships. To become a sponsor or to make a contribution, contact TIAC staff directly through the website.

Established in 1902, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation design and construction industry in the Nation’s Capital.

Meeting a Federal Highway Trust Fund Crisis: A Profile in Courage … and

ARTBAFebruary 28 is a special day in the history of the federal highway program and Highway Trust Fund that supports it.  On this day, 53 years ago, President John F. Kennedy (JFK) saw a threat to the nation’s future economic growth and security and grabbed the reins of leadership.

The year was 1961.  Americans were paying 27 cents per gallon for gasoline, including a 4 cents per gallon federal gas and diesel fuel tax to support capital investments though the federal highway program in their personal mobility and the nation’s economy and security.  The 2014 equivalents would be a 31 cents per gallon federal gas tax on a $2.11 gallon of gasoline.

“Our federal pay-as-you-go highway program is in peril,” JFK said in the first sentence of a “Special Message to the Congress on the Federal Highway Program” sent up to Capitol Hill that day.

The problem:  the user based revenue stream going into the Highway Trust Fund was not sufficient to sustain the level of authorizations necessary to keep the highway program running without going into deficit spending.  Kennedy told the Congress $900 million more dollars per year ($7.04B in 2014 dollars) was necessary.

“Our objective,” Kennedy said, “is to finance this program on a pay-as-you-go basis from… user taxes… at rates sufficient to pay the full cost of the program, without charge on general federal revenues… “The pay-as-you-go principle… requires an increase in the revenues from user taxes…”

It is clear, he said, “that a program essential to the nation, and to [the public’s] own welfare, requires that they cooperate in determining how present sources are to yield the additional revenues needed.”

Kennedy offered what he called “A New Plan to Finance the Highway Program.”  He urged Congress to sustain the federal gas tax revenue stream and increase the user fees on trucks—the federal diesel fuel excise increased from 4 cents per gallon to 7 cents; truck weight excise for vehicles over 26,000 lbs. from $1.50 per 1,000 lbs. to $5.00 per; the excises on sale of new tires from 8 cents per tire to 10 cents, the sale of tire inner tubes from 9 cents per to 10 cents, and tread rubber from 3 cents to 10 cents.

On June 29, 1961, the 87th Congress of the United States responded, approving the “Federal Aid Highway Act of 1961,” (Public Law 87-61), generally following the path outlined by the President.

The Highway Trust Fund crisis was averted.  Filling out and construction of the 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System and ongoing improvements to the 848,677 miles of state roads deemed worthy of federal investment due to their importance to the nation’s economy and security continued forward.   No American jobs were lost.

Footnote:   Despite claims to the contrary, the federal gas tax is not “broken” or “outmoded” as a mechanism to raise user revenue for the Highway Trust Fund.  The only problem with the gas tax as a revenue generator is that the rate has been frozen for 20 years and the rate has never been indexed, or adjusted, to keep pace with annual price inflation or to meet identified needs.  It is a fact that if Congress had indexed the 1961 federal gas tax rate of 4 cents per gallon to future annual inflation, the gas tax alone would be generating almost $56B this year for Highway Trust Fund investments.  There would be no 2014 HTF crisis looming October 1 that could shut-off federal investment for any new state transportation department highway, bridge and transit projects during FY 2015.  It is also a fact that today’s 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax has 50 percent less purchasing power than the 4 cents per gallon tax had in 1961.

Trust Fund in Crisis