Tip Sheets

Pelican Island accident underscores cracks in America’s aging infrastructure

Media Contact

Damien Sharp

A barge struck the Pelican Island Bridge in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday causing an oil spill and partial collapse of the bridge.

Rick Geddes, infrastructure policy expert and director of the Cornell University Infrastructure Policy Program, outlines several actions the U.S. should take in ensuring stable infrastructure.

Rick Geddes

Professor, Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy

“U.S. infrastructure remains vulnerable and requires attention, funding, and policy support. The Pelican Island accident is yet another wake-up call to reassess the resilience of many infrastructure facilities to a variety of threats. Those can include accidents involving ships, rail, and vehicles, as well as natural occurrences such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. It may also be threats from people and technology, such as cyber-attacks.

“A vast but quiet technological revolution is transforming how infrastructure is integrated with today’s needs. Improvements in materials, sensors, and designs are now used to strengthen and enhance how infrastructure functions so they are much more resilient to a host of threats.

“Greater contracting with private-sector partners must occur to future proof infrastructure. This involves adopting innovative technologies and design standards that allow for longer lifespans. A future-proofed contract either places that risk on a private partner that does infrastructure operation and maintenance or shares the risk, thus helping to ensure that private capital, incentives, and expertise are deployed to make U.S. infrastructure as resilient as possible.”

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