U.S. needs to change its spending philosophy before another infrastructure catastrophe disrupts supply chain

The bridge fracture in Memphis is raising concerns over the rest of the country’s infrastructure. Now, Congress races to produce an infrastructure package everyone can get behind.

The significant fracture on a heavily-traveled bridge forced officials to close a major interstate connecting the eastern United States to the west. River traffic was also suspended for nearly two days as an assessment was made.

This delayed more than 1,000 barges, which the Soy Transportation Coalition says highlights the glaring need for an update.

According to the coalition’s executive director, Mike Steenhoek, “Nothing motivates like a catastrophe, and clearly, we were all very thankful that... there obviously weren’t any injuries, or even worse, that resulted from this bridge issue, but, it still is a very vivid reminder of what could have happened from a loss of life perspective. It’s a very vivid example of how disruptive something like that can be for our national supply chain.”

He hopes this event will motivate elected officials to work together towards a solution, but adds that a change in spending philosophy will be needed.

“That mentality is that we’re a spending nation and not an investing nation, and there’s a very profound difference between the two. In this country, we like to allocate resources today in exchange for value today. That’s what spending is. When you allocate resources today in exchange for value tomorrow, that’s an investment, and we need to recapture that investment mentality,” he states. “So, you see this spending mentality manifest itself and this lack of investment mentality manifest itself at a number of these areas of the country with our infrastructure, and how it’s not as resilient as it should be. It’s not as well-maintained as it should be.”

That is the big challenge facing the country. Steenhoek gives his opinion on the best place to begin.

“I think there’s a real opportunity to do something focused on what most Americans regard as infrastructure: roads, bridges, ports, inland waterways, freight rail, et cetera. Unfortunately, there are a number of elected officials who are adding a lot of additional things to it which are not related to infrastructure, and as a result, the probability of success goes down rather than up,” he adds. “So, I think first establishing a game plan is critical.”

As far as the Memphis bridge is concerned, emergency repairs are underway. Full infrastructure legislation though is still pending.


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