With the designation earlier this month as Infrastructure Week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Council on Competitiveness and more than a dozen allied organizations, now is a good time to contemplate the difficult job county governments and others face in maintaining and enhancing our transportation infrastructure here in Indiana and nationally.
The current federal act for infrastructure funding, called MAP 21, is set to expire on Sept. 30 of this year. It is critical for economic development, public safety and the quality of local communities that Congress finds a way to increase funding for all modes of transportation.
Local governments face severe limits on what we can do to support our infrastructure. While we are expected to maintain a larger share of the roadway system than state or federal governments, we have the most restrictions on the funds we can rely on to handle the increasing loads that our roads carry.
Fortunately, there are ways besides additional funding that we can look to as solutions to the threats to the quality of our local pavements. One such alternative is through greater use of intermodal transportation, especially of freight and heavy loads.
Intermodal means that we ship goods on different vehicles for different parts of trips the goods take. Although intermodal trips occur every day all around us, it’s good to point to an example. One example of such an intermodal event received media coverage in central Indiana just this month because of the unusual load involved.
A 200-ton electric transformer traveled hundreds of miles from a factory in Wisconsin by rail, to be unloaded in Martinsville, Ind. Those miles of rail travel saved highways and local roads from having to carry such a load, and avoided wear and tear on the pavement; the rail was a more energy-efficient means of transportation as well. Once the transformer was within 15 miles of its final destination, it was transferred to a special multi-axle trailer and driven at 10 mph to a substation south of town.