A Failing (Up)grade

The Top Story in last week’s Cargo Business News informed us that U.S. ports and inland waterways needed substantial infrastructure improvements. This disinformation didn’t originate with the publishers of that service though, they were just relaying what was reported by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in its Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. That Report Card, according to the ASCE, is a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s infrastructure, including ports and inland waterway systems, which barely passed muster.

“U.S. ports received a grade of C from the ASCE because considerable investment is necessary to continue to compete globally, including improved port maintenance, modernization and expansion.

“‘AAPA is pleased that ASCE included seaports in its critical infrastructure Report Card,’ said Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities. ‘The inclusion of seaports in this infrastructure analysis is recognition of the importance of ports, and the connections to them, and to our nation’s freight transportation system.’

“In the ASCE’s inaugural assessment, it was found that port authorities have planned over $ 46 billion in capital improvements from now through 2016. While ports have made investments to improve terminal infrastructure, their connections to roads, rail and water channels have suffered from inadequate federal funding. The report also found that more dredging will be necessary to take advantage of higher trade capacity once the expanded Panama Canal opens in 2015.

“‘AAPA played an active role in providing information and insight about seaports to ASCE,’ Nagle said. (Wink, wink.) ‘The “C” grade given seaport-related infrastructure in its study reinforces our viewpoint that the federal government is not investing nearly enough in the landside and waterside connections to ports.’

“Inland waterways received a D-grade because conditions are poor and investments remain sluggish. In fact, many sections of the inland waterways systems and locks have not been upgraded since the 1950s, leading to an average of 52 service interruptions a day throughout the inland waterway system, and a backlog of projects with estimated completion dates stretching to the year 2090, according to the report.

“‘The Report Card reiterates what other national and international studies have concluded about the neglected state of our nation’s port related transportation infrastructure,’ added Nagle, ‘including recent reports from the World Economic Forum, Building America’s Future and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to name a few.’ ….

[Mr. Nagle: Please ask the folks at ASCE if they expect unemployed Americans to pay for all this “infrastructure” upgrading. And who do they suppose will be buying the cargo that will be arriving after completion of the Panama Canal expansion. Those same unemployed Americans? And while you’re at it, ask the ASCE how we can put about 40 million unemployed Americans back to work.]