“We fought for this provision because I have seen the speed of government and I know people cannot wait that long,” Kagen says.
The billions of dollars to be invested in new infrastructure this year marks the largest increase in funding for our nation’s roads and bridges, and railways since the 1950s. Each state, local and tribal government is eligible for highway formula funding.
These entities may also apply for competitive grants (minimum $20 million, maximum $300 million) for highway and bridge projects, public transportation projects, passenger and freight rail projects and port infrastructure investments.
Although high-speed passenger trains are a high priority, Kagen hopes freight railways will be updated, as well.
“Updates to rail infrastructure could lead to a better quality rail industry in America and encourage more companies to join the marketplace, thus increasing competition,” Kagen adds.
There is also money available for seaport infrastructure. Small shipyards can apply for the $100 million in nationwide competitive grants to improve infrastructure, but the Maritime Administration intends to award no more than 25% of the funds to shipyards with more than 600 production employees. Applications are due to the Maritime Administration on April 20, 2009.
INFRASTRUCTURE ON THE GROUND LEVEL
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, feed mills and grain elevators are eligible to receive funding for their own infrastructure projects.
“This bill is not limited to solely supporting government infrastructure projects,” says Kagen. “Individuals, small businesses, family farms and private companies can apply for existing grants, loans and other programs by contacting program coordinators at the state level.”
Gerry Leukam, senior vice presidentm, technical operations, at T. E. Ibberson Company, says plenty can be done to improve both rail and truck infrastructure at the site level.
Rail companies give discounts to large-volume shippers, those who can unload an entire shuttle train of 90 to 110 cars in 12 to 15 hours. In order to take advantage of the freight savings and avoid additional fees, Leukam suggests adding rail infrastructure and high-speed unloading systems and possibly motion rail scales to existing facilities.
“Feed mills and elevators need enough track on-site to get the train off the main line and onto their property,” says Leukam. “When the train is dropped off, the rail company may leave the engines on, allowing you to move the train on your property so it can be loaded or unloaded within a required amount of time.”
Leukam says that if more facilities could update their rail infrastructure, it would indirectly affect our highways for the better. “I believe if more facilities were able to utilize freight rail, we would see trains used more than trucks, which would decrease traffic on other infrastructure [highways and interstates] systems,” Leukam says. “The rail companies need to regain customer confidence for consistent delivery and pickup schedules.”
ROADS AND HIGHWAYS
When it comes to improving road infrastructure on a facility level, Leukam says speed, safety and automation are all key points.
Investing in automation software can also help improve the flow of traffic.
“There are computer programs available today that automatically process orders as the driver pulls up to your facility,” says Leukam. “As the driver comes into the gate, they simply swipe an identification badge and the program already knows what order’s being picked up. Then it prestages the order, so by the time the driver gets to the driveway, the load is already staged up above and the truck is instantly loaded.”
Steven Day, senior product manager, John Deere Agri Services, Inc., has assisted a growing number of customers in improving traffic flow with tools like their oneWeigh™ scale automation system.
“There’s a direct correlation between improving traffic flow and enhancing productivity with automated systems,” says Day. “Our customers are being asked to handle more tasks with fewer people. Under those circumstances the chance for errors and delays rise dramatically. Automated processes reduce errors, improve traceability and keep drivers in the truck and moving on to their next task.”