Baltimore Bridge Collapse Underscores Critical Importance of Modernizing Interstate Highways

From 2022-2050, freight moved annually in the United States by trucks is expected to increase 93% in value (inflation-adjusted dollars) and 47% by weight. U.S. business logistics costs reached $2.3 trillion in 2022, representing 9.1% of U.S. GDP.

Baltimore Bridge Christine Adobe Stock 769092028
Christine AdobeStock_769092028

The month following the collapse of a portion of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge after it was struck by a cargo ship has highlighted the importance of the safety, reliability and condition of the nation’s freight transportation network in meeting the growing need for timely and safe movement of goods, according to TRIP, a national transportation research non-profit.

“The interruption in the flow of freight and travel both on Baltimore’s Key Bridge and in the channel below highlights the importance of our nation’s transportation network in safely and reliably moving goods and people,” says David Kearby, executive director of TRIP. “A transportation system that is well-maintained, safe, efficient and adequately funded is critical to our nation’s economy and the quality of life and safety of those who rely on it.”

This chart provides state-by-state data for freight movement by value and weight, the projected increase in freight movement by value and weight from 2022-2050, the share of vehicle miles of travel by combination trucks on the Interstate and on Rural Interstates, and the share of Interstate bridges in poor and fair condition.

Trtip Supply Chain News Release Freight Chart April 2024 757x1024TRIP

Key takeaways:

  • In addition to the need to evaluate bridges to ensure adequate safety measures are in place to safeguard their sustainability despite increasing ship sizes and weights, increased vehicle travel on the bridge and changing environmental conditions, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge also spotlights the importance of the Interstate Highway System in supporting the nation’s supply chain and the continued growth in freight movement in the United States.
  • According to a 2023 TRIP report, in 2022, the U.S. freight system moved 19.7 billion tons of freight, valued at $18.8 trillion, with trucks carrying 72% of freight by value and 64% by weight. From 2000-2022, vehicle miles of travel by large commercial trucks in the United States increased by 44%. 
  • From 2022-2050, freight moved annually in the United States by trucks is expected to increase 93% in value (inflation-adjusted dollars) and 47% by weight. U.S. business logistics costs reached $2.3 trillion in 2022, representing 9.1% of U.S. GDP – the highest share ever.
  • Nearly 3% of bridges on the nation’s Interstate Highway System are rated in poor condition and another 59% are rated in fair condition. Bridges in poor condition have significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. A fair rating indicates that a bridge’s structural elements are sound but minor deterioration has occurred to the bridge’s deck, substructure or superstructure.
  • 2019 TRB report found that the U.S. Interstate system has a persistent and growing backlog of physical and operational deficiencies as a result of age, heavy use and deferred reinvestment, and is in need of major reconstruction and modernization. The TRB report concludes that annual investment in the Interstate Highway System should be increased approximately 2.5 times, from $23 billion in 2018 to $57 billion annually over the next 20 years. In 2022, 13% of travel on Interstate highways and 22% of travel on rural Interstate highways was by combination trucks and 57% of large commercial truck vehicle miles of travel in 2022 was on Interstate highways.
  • While the amount and value of goods being shipped have risen to unprecedented levels, mounting traffic congestion is increasing the cost of moving freight and reducing the economic competitiveness and efficiency of businesses that require reliable, affordable freight transportation. Traffic congestion results in $95 billion annually in the cost of commercial trucks being stuck in traffic for 1.3 billion hours.

“The tragic collapse of the Key Bridge in Baltimore has had a significant impact on businesses across Maryland, disrupting the movement of goods and people throughout the region,” says Mary D. Kane, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. “This event has underscored the crucial role that our nation’s infrastructure plays in supporting the daily lives of our citizens and the smooth functioning of our economy. As the unified voice of the Maryland business community, we are committed to continuing to work with our Building Bridges to Recovery Coalition, state and federal partners, as well as businesses across the state to advocate for the resources and policies needed to address these infrastructure challenges and preserve the resilience of our supply chains.”