This summer a bridge on I-65 near Lafayette, Indiana dropped 9 inches. The highway was closed indefinitely. For those of us who depend on this freeway it hit home. But this is only one bridge, on one highway, in one state. The problem is bigger. Much bigger.

Why Did the Bridge on I-65 Drop?

“What caused the bridge to drop 9 inches last week while construction crews worked to widen it has not yet been determined, pending further tests. Officials believe soil conditions and an underground artesian spring, in conjunction with construction work on the bridge, caused the structure to settle or sink into the ground, necessitating its closure.”– JCOnline.com

This Didn’t Happen Overnight

According to an article posted in the Lafayette Journal and Courier the problem may stem back to the original construction of the bridge. The bridge was constructed in 1969 and then reconstructed in 1988. Bridge inspections as far back as 2005 recognized several problems and potential failure of the bridge. Yet nothing was done for 10 years. There were more important places to spend state and federal dollars, but were there? Ask the thousands of people inconvenienced by the delays, ask the businesses that have been adversely affected, and ask the family of the driver who lost her life on the detour. WTHR Fatal Accident on I-65 Detour.

Breaking Down the Numbers

“In 2011, the CBO (Congressional Budget office) reported (PDF), “Total federal spending on highway infrastructure for 2009 amounted to $41 billion…” In the same report, the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) said, “maintaining the highway system at its current performance would require $126 billion per year…” An Ivey Business Journal post states, “The National Chamber Foundation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that by 2015, the cost just to maintain U.S. ‘pavements, bridges, and transit infrastructure’ would amount to $295 billion…” Whatever the system, when funds aren’t invested to maintain those systems, atrophy is the eventual outcome.” – Is it Time to Invest in Our Highways?

This shouldn’t be an Afterthought

Maintaining and repairing our nation’s infrastructure should be a priority. Our country depends on these highways. Without highways and bridges that are maintained and repaired, we cannot conduct business in America efficiently. Without a well maintained infrastructure we will fall behind global competitors. And it’s not only highways and bridges. It’s not only delivering food, and medicine, and industrial supplies. It’s water, sewage, power supplies, and airports. Earlier this year my wife and I flew from Indianapolis to New York City. The Indianapolis airport has been rated one of the best in America, LaGuardia—not so much. The difference was night and day. As we waited for our bags at the carousel I conversed about this with a fellow traveler. He said, “You should fly from Tokyo to here, it’s like going from 2050 to 1950.” If the world see’s the USA as old, outdated, and worn out where do you think they’ll eventually take their business? Support infrastructure improvement legislation. Support trucking. Support America.

Photo by Christian Schnettelker / CC BY-SA