Have you ever wondered why the United States has the largest manufacturing and consuming economy in the world and should stay that way for many years to come? Have you wondered WHEN China, India or Brazil will overtake the U.S as the worlds largest economy? If so, you may want to compare just two aspects of infrastructure hurdles, Roads and Railroads, that prevent these three countries, or any other, from overtaking the U.S. as the worlds foremost economy.
Have you ever traveled, or shipped goods, by road or rail in China, India, or Brazil? If so, Good Luck! Of the 4 economies mentioned, including the U.S., I have traveled in all but Brazil and have shipped goods, to, from, and in, all of them.
Lets look at road infrastructure to get an idea of how easy it is to travel, or get goods shipped, from point A to point B.
The U.S has over 2,700,000+ miles (4,374,000+ km) of paved public roads of which 46,500 miles (75,330 km) is the Eisenhower Interstate System. We have a modern fleet of trucks and rolling stock facilitated by ease of movement throughout all 48 of the continental States
Brazil has about 114,425 miles (184,140 km) of paved road but nothing close to our interstate highway system with most divided highway systems linking major population centers along the Southeast coast.
China has about 168,000 miles (272,160 km) of paved road of which 15,200 miles (24,624 km) is considered "express" roadway. Movement is restricted by internal passports and inability for anybody to travel anywhere within China without government approval.
India has 6,200 miles (10,000 km) of 4 lane divided highways and these do NOT have limited access. "Paved" has an entirely different meaning in India. If you have ever traveled in India, you share the 4 lane highway with pedestrians, donkeys, mules, and cows pulling carts or being driven; buses, pedicabs, deisel fume spewing trucks, and pretty much anything else that is mobile. India currently has 403 miles (648 km) of express roads with limited access and another 1,738 mi (2,797 km) under construction. India is planning for 11,580 miles (18,637 km) of divided highway by 2022. But like everything in India there are major problems building just the few miles now under construction.
Railroad infrastructure is not as dire as road infrastructure, but still pose major challenges moving goods in the challenging economies because of outdated locomotives, railway stock and routes.
The U.S had 226,427 km of rail routes in 2007, down from an historic peak of 408,833 km. The US also has an excellant route system for transport of goods with a modern locomotive and rolling stock fleet.
China had 86,000 km of railroad in 2009 with over 50% of the country's traffic moving by rail. Most of China's railroutes are North-South with a few East-West routes, Beijing being the rail hub of the country.
India has 64,015 km of rail routes as of 2010. The locomotives and rolling stock are mostly of vintage British era as are the roadbeds. This mode of travel is a true adventure as a passenger or as goods.
Brazil has 29,817 km of rail lines and most of these go from major population centers into the hinterlands. There is no railroute going along the major population centers on the Brazilian Atlantic Coast.
Roads and Railroads are just two of the infrastructure challenges facing our nearest manufacturing and consumer challengers in future. Sea Ports, gas and oil pipelines, electricity grids, clean drinking water, and sewage, are among the many other infarstructure challenges that face other nations in their quest to catch the US. Meanwhile, we will continue to improve our position as the worlds foremost economy.