Last week saw some of the Democratic presidential hopefuls weighing in on the often-neglected issue of infrastructure spending, at a "Moving America Forward" event in Las Vegas, ahead of the Nevada caucus.
To sum up, Joe Biden proposed spending $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years to rebuild road, bridges, buildings, and the electric grid. Intriguingly, he championed inland waterborne freight transport as a way to address climate change, with plans to modernize the nation’s locks and dams.
This seems eminently sensible to me. I live close to the Hudson River, and rarely see anything other than the odd barge pushing fuel oil and construction equipment up this fantastically low-cost and uncongested freight route. Wouldn’t it be great to make more use of this super-highway that connects the Eastern seaboard (and international trade) with more than 2 million people, while countless trucks clog the New York State Thruway, which runs parallel?
What a shame the Erie Canal and Delaware-Hudson Canal are no longer viable water freight routes, having been significantly filled in. It might be worth considering re-opening them in the future, not least as job-generating projects. After all, in 1853, the Erie Canal carried 62% of all U.S. trade.
Amy Klobuchar stressed how she would improve high-speed internet connectivity across rural America. This was part of her proposal to spend $650 billion in federal funds to fix U.S. infrastructure. Lack of connectivity, via cell towers at least, was highlighted last week by this troubling story from a journalist stranded when her connected car lost signal. We might be further from the internet-of-things paradise than we’ve been led to believe.
Klobuchar also said she would create a clean energy bank, with $250 billion made available to finance innovative technologies, leveraging public funds to attract private investment. Pete Buttigieg, too, likes the idea of a clean energy bank, also apportioning $250 billion of his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure budget to one.
Tom Steyer pushed the proposed infrastructure spending proposal higher, to $2 trillion, focusing on “climate resilient” projects that include $775 billion for electric vehicle charging stations.
Apparently nobody had anything to say about rail, even though it presents an attractive proposition for greener freight transport (and less congestion, and fewer road deaths).
Should Donald Trump win another four-year term, the realistic best scenario is that he will make good on his pledge to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure in the next 10 years, $810 billion of which is earmarked for improving surface transportation. Looks like we could be stuck with trucks for a good long while.
Helen Atkinson is a contributing writer to SupplyChainBrain.
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