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America's transport infrastructure: Life in the slow lane

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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-29-11 09:57 AM
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America's transport infrastructure: Life in the slow lane
from The Economist:



Life in the slow lane
Americans are gloomy about their economys ability to produce. Are they right to be? We look at two areas of concern, transport infrastructure and innovation

Apr 28th 2011




ON FRIDAY afternoons, residents of Washington, DC, often find a clear route out of the city as elusive as a deal to cut the deficit. Ribbons of red rear-lights stretch off into the distance along the highways that radiate from the citys centre. Occasionally, adventurous southbound travellers experiment with Amtrak, Americas national rail company. The distance from Washington to Raleigh, North Carolina (a metropolitan area about the size of Brussels) is roughly the same as from Londons St Pancras Station to the Gare du Nord in Paris. But this is no Eurostar journey.

Trains creep out of Washingtons Union Station and pause at intervals, inexplicably, as they travel through the northern Virginia suburbs. In the summer, high temperatures threaten to kink the steel tracks, forcing trains to slow down even more. Riders may find themselves inching along behind a lumbering freight train for miles at a time, until the route reaches a side track on which the Amtrak train can pass. The trip takes six hours, well over twice as long as the London-Paris journey, if there are no delays. And there often are.

America, despite its wealth and strength, often seems to be falling apart. American cities have suffered a rash of recent infrastructure calamities, from the failure of the New Orleans levees to the collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis, to a fatal crash on Washington, DCs (generally impressive) metro system. But just as striking are the common shortcomings. Americas civil engineers routinely give its transport structures poor marks, rating roads, rails and bridges as deficient or functionally obsolete. And according to a World Economic Forum study Americas infrastructure has got worse, by comparison with other countries, over the past decade. In the WEF 2010 league table America now ranks 23rd for overall infrastructure quality, between Spain and Chile. Its roads, railways, ports and air-transport infrastructure are all judged mediocre against networks in northern Europe.

America is known for its huge highways, but with few exceptions (London among them) American traffic congestion is worse than western Europes. Average delays in Americas largest cities exceed those in cities like Berlin and Copenhagen. Americans spend considerably more time commuting than most Europeans; only Hungarians and Romanians take longer to get to work (see chart 1). More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the OECD average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.economist.com/node/18620944?story_id=1862094...



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