Bridges: enormous examples of physical infrastructure.
But when they begin to fail, they also reveal themselves as economic infrastructure, too. We’re not talking about construction jobs here; we’re talking day-in, day-out business operations.
A report by Carol Wolf in Bloomberg demonstrates how several communities in the United States with aging bridges are incurring very real costs after those bridges are closed down, forcing goods and other transportation to take longer (and therefore more costly, in time and money) alternate routes.
Suddenly, it becomes crystal clear that investment in infrastructure is indirectly investment in local business.
[Jewelry store owner Jim] Benton says he’s having customers pick up repairs on Saturday, when the traffic isn’t as bad. He’s made special arrangements to return unsold merchandise.
While big national companies like UPS and FedEx have developed information systems to reroute drivers when detours occur, small and medium-sized businesses don’t have that luxury. The bottom line: a good chunk of a nation’s economy depends on the real-life movement of goods, and therefore depends on the viability of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and tunnels to conduct business.
Political football aside, this ongoing risk creates new opportunities for public-private partnerships. Can companies pool resources together to invest in the infrastructure they need to conduct business? The private sector can’t subsidize the U.S.’s sprawling infrastructure entirely, but funding for a few key bridges, roads and tunnels could keep the local economy humming — and avoid outsize detours and costs.
Photo: Dan McKay/Flickr