Piper's Pipeline: October 29 - November 4, 2011

Piper's Pipeline: October 29 - November 4, 2011

by Don Piper
7. November 2011 13:35

Transportation infrastructure

    26th floor view; Boston's North End
  • The tunnel in Boston known as The Big Dig is having problems with the ground sinking. Attempts have been made, including freezing the ground around the sinking spot. Now the ground has thawed, and the sinking has returned at about an inch per month.
    • Contractors plan to dig 4,135 feet-deep holes to take samples of the earth. They hope to find the extent of the problem.
    • The Big Dig (or "The Big Dug") has had problems since it opened to traffic.
  • The number of "structurally deficient" bridges in metro areas in the US numbers 18,000, according to a report issued by Transportation for America.
    • Pittsburgh had the highest number, at 30.4% for an area of 2 million people; Oklahoma City at 19.8% and Tulsa at 27.5% for areas of 500,000 and 1 million.
    • According to James Corless, director of Transportation for America, "There are more deficient bridges in our metropolitan areas than there are McDonald's restaurants in the entire country." The estimated number is some 70,000 bridges nationally that are in need of substantial repair or replacement.
    • The FAA estimates that a cost of $70.9 billion is needed to correct this problem. There is slightly more than $5 billion annually available in the federal outlay.
  • The US House and Senate have reportedly agreed upon a long-term FAA bill. Funding remains the issue. Rep. John Mica (R-FL) has committed to take "every measure that's needed" to pass a four-year authorization for the FAA by the end of 2011.

Traffic and weather

  • Container traffic at the Port of Savannah increased by 13.5% from August to September.
  • Global air traffic was down 2.7% in September. APAC's traffic fell by 6.3%.
  • About 177,850 tons (89%) of all flower imports to the US move through the Miami International Airport, most of them from Latin America. This represents over 5 billion stems.
    • So far in 2011, imports are down 6%, blamed on the weak economy.
    • Imports of flowers come from various countries. The largest volume is Columbia, at 65%, with Ecuador at 16%. For US flower production, California represents 76% of volume by dollar.
    • The flower import business in South Florida is a big industry, with 76 importers employing 6,100 people.
  • A privately owned weather forecaster, Telvent USA, Inc., of Columbia, Maryland, is providing weather information to its clients, including the City of Indianapolis. The temperatures of pavement are a factor in the forecast. Carriers who have subscribed to its services report favorable results.
  • Following a downward price of diesel for several weeks, the price has been up for the last few weeks. Since October 10, the increase has ranged from 7 to 8 cents per gallon.
    • Heating oil is blamed for the most part, as it is being stocked for certain areas of the country. Oil is the predominant source of heat in the Northeast and Midwest. The early snowstorm in the last week also helped trigger higher costs.


  • A study revealed that the cost to operate US-flagged ships is nearly twice that of foreign-flagged vessels. Labor is one of the major causes.
    • There are 110 oceangoing ships under the US flag, of which half are in the Maritime Security. US owners operate 540 ships under foreign flags.
    • US mariners earned more than 5 times as much as those under foreign flag in 2010. Labor costs to operate a US-flag ship amount to $13,655 daily compared to the foreign flag cost of $2,590 daily.
  • 300,000 illegal aliens that were under deportation orders by a US court are to remain in the US by orders from President Obama. They will be eligible for temporary work visas. 22 million US citizens are currently unemployed.
  • The Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPRR) is a target for sale to a private equity firm in the US. Berkshire Hathaway is involved. If purchased by a US firm, Canada would be left with the Canadian National Railroad (CN) as the only Canada-operated major railroad.

Image by Global Jet

What should be done to strengthen current infrastructure, such as bridges and The Big Dig? Please comment on these and other updates, and check back soon for next week's "Pipeline"!

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