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Road, Power Gaps May Cost U.S. GDP $3.1 Trillion, Group Says

January 16, 2013
Bloomberg News
Jeff Plungis

Increasing annual infrastructure spending in the U.S. by $157 billion over the next eight years would save $3.1 trillion in gross domestic product, $1.1 trillion in trade and 3.5 million jobs, according to a new report.

Current U.S. policies will underfund surface transportation, aviation, waterways, the electrical grid and sewers by about $1.1 trillion through 2020, the American Society of Civil Engineers said today. The $157 billion would be on top of expected U.S. spending of about $207 billion a year, the group said.

“Infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy and provides the foundation for assuring a high quality of life for all Americans,” said Gregory E. DiLoreto, president of ASCE, said in a news conference. “If we don’t invest now, all Americans will pay more in the long run.”

Without the added investment, business costs will increase by $1.2 trillion and household costs by $611 billion, the group said.

“Public and private investment and new, innovative strategies are needed to repair, rebuild and revitalize the nation’s transportation systems,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director for transportation and infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest U.S. business lobbying group.

Low Mississippi River water levels that have restricted barge traffic have put a spotlight on a fragile waterways system, said Rick Calhoun, president of Cargo Carriers, Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc.’s transportation subsidiary.

About $2.8 billion of commodities was at risk when it looked like barge traffic was going to stop, according to American Waterways Operators, a trade group based in Arlington, Virginia.

“I fear the near closure of the river is simply a preview of what will happen when we have a catastrophic failure of a lock or dam” on the upper Mississippi, Calhoun said.

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