Simon Geale, executive vice president of procurement with Proxima, weighs the prospects for transportation infrastructure development under the initiative spurred by the Biden Administration and Congress.
The infrastructure package advocated by President Biden and now before Congress would provide “an enormous amount” of funding for the improvement of rails, roads and ports, Geale said, even if individual modes carp that they aren’t getting a big enough piece of the pie. And the need for infrastructure development is dire, with some 46,000 bridges and thousands of miles of roadway requiring both repair and new construction.
The initiative as it stands is a long-term proposition, leading to the authorization of projects that will take years, if not decades, to complete. As such, it offers little to no relief from the current congestion that’s plaguing ports, railyards, equipment providers and other aspects of the nation’s transportation system. Still, the work promised by the plan should go a long way toward making the U.S. competitive with countries that spend much more on their infrastructure.
Separate from the issue of physical infrastructure is that of regulation. Shippers are complaining loudly about the sky-high rates they’re current being required to pay for ocean freight, as well as high fees for detention and demurrage, and a lack of availability of containers and chassis to get their products to market. While there are limits to what the federal government can do in international commerce, U.S. regulatory agencies are looking to utilize their powers to a greater extent than in past years, Geale says.
Complicating the issue is coming up with a modern definition of “infrastructure.” Today, the word incorporates digital development, environmental responsibility, public transportation and a host of cultural issues, all of which could slow much-needed improvements to the freight network.
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