The business angle was among the first local media pursued after the bridge closed. Stories about businesses in Indiana being cut off from their customer base appeared alongside stories about New Albany businesses owners hoping to gain support from fellow Hoosiers who were separated from their regular haunts. Then there were the logistics questions. Louisville’s government leaders have long hoped to make the city a logistics hub. These attempts are built around Louisville’s central location in the country and the location of the UPS Worldport.
Bloomberg has taken both those angles and used them as the basis for a story on how crumbling infrastructure affects businesses nationwide. The article cites the American Society of Civil Engineers to say “the disrepair of U.S. surface-transportation systems cost businesses and households about $130 billion last year.”
Jim Benton, a Jeffersonville, Indiana, jewelry-store owner, says sales fell 40 percent in two weeks after the Sherman Minton Bridgeconnecting his border community to customers in Kentucky closed Sept. 9.
Fifteen miles from the bridge’s Kentucky side, officials at United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS)’s Worldport, the world’s largest automated package-handling facility, say they’ve used software to reroute trucks with no substantial impact. That’s not so easy for Benton, who said he’s keeping longer hours and buying less merchandise for the holiday season.
Benton’s plight is playing out for small businesses across the U.S., where 3,538 bridges were closed in 2010, as customers shop elsewhere rather than take detours. With the average U.S. bridge seven years from the end of its useful life, and one- fourth of 600,000 crossings classified by regulators as “structurally deficient,” more places will be hurt by closings, said Barry LePatner, founder of LePatner & Associates LLP, a New York-based construction law and consulting firm.
The disrepair of U.S. surface-transportation systems cost businesses and households about $130 billion last year, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, based in Reston, Virginia. Of that, $32 billion is related to travel delays, it said in a report issued in July.