Lack of funding leaves world’s roads in disrepair

In an age of austerity and budget cutbacks, the deadly bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, has put the spotlight clearly on the lack of public funding for road networks across the globe, from France and Germany, to the United States and beyond.
A report by the World Economic Forum published late last year found that, out of 137 countries, road quality was highest in the United Arab Emirates, with Singapore in second place. Switzerland came third.
Among its European partners, the Netherlands followed in fifth place, France in seventh, Germany 15th, Italy 45th and Belgium 46th.
In France, a recent government-commissioned audit found that one out of every three bridges is in need of repair.
In Belgium, around 80 bridges, viaducts and tunnels have been placed under heightened scrutiny due to their state of disrepair, according to a De Standaard newspaper report.
In Germany, “it’s only a matter of time before a similar catastrophe happens,” the head of the DIW economic think-tank, Marcel Fratzcher, said on national radio. According to the Federal Highway Research Institute, only one motorway bridge out of every eight is classified as being in “good” or “very good” condition.
One particular bridge across the Rhine at Leverkusen in Germany’s industrial heartland was closed to heavy goods vehicles in 2012.
The Swedish Transport Administration estimates that some 850 bridges across the country need to be reinforced by 2030 after heavier trucks were allowed onto its roads.
In the United Kingdom, public debate about the state of the country’s roads tends to focus more on potholes than on the condition of tunnels and bridges.
The RAC Foundation however published a report last year which found that more than 3,000 bridges were not fit to carry the heaviest vehicles.
The US Transportation Department estimated last year that more than two thirds of American roads and nearly 143,000 bridges were in need of urgent repair or improvement.
Germany, which has a budget surplus, has frequently been called on by the likes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be “more energetic” in its public investment.
In 2018, the government earmarked 3.9 billion euros ($4.4 billion) in investment for roads and bridges. — AFP