Germany roads are the Mercedes to our Pinto

Transportation infrastructure is in far better shape overseas

April 22, 2013

They say over 90% of the city of Munich, Germany, was rebuilt after World War II. Apparently, the urban dwelling was a heavy target of the Allies, who left crater calling cards. Houston, Texas, never had German fighter pilots buzzing overhead. Instead, there have been motorists pounding the pavement to oblivion for the last 60-plus years. However, the streets in Munich are in far better shape than those in Houston.

Over the last three weeks my travels have taken me from the Lone Star State to the country that was for about a week the star of the heavy-equipment industry (bauma 2013). During my stay in Houston, I took a hotel shuttle several times down Main Street. There was a spot on this major thoroughfare where the shuttle driver almost had to come to a complete stop to deaden the blow of rough pavement, which actually looked like it received some recent patch work but had some serious sub-base issues. I also had the chance to ride the Metro bus line while I was there, and found myself on one occasion waiting more than 20 minutes for my ride to arrive. While I was waiting, and in between cursing, I attempted to download a Metro iPhone app. I was expecting to find one that would show me the estimated time of arrival at my stop, but all I could muster up was one just showing the map of service. From a transportation perspective, my overall experience in Houston was about a C-.

About a week later I found myself showing off my passport en route to a trip to Munich for bauma 2013. As I hinted at earlier, the roads in this city were as smooth as any I have rode on in the U.S., and the public transit system was world class. Above ground, Munich relies on the TRAM system to move people. The TRAM is essentially an electric trolley-car system. The few times I rode it, I never had to wait more than five minutes at a stop--and the cars were impeccably clean. From a transportation perspective, my overall experience in Munich was a B+.

As for the business side of things, bauma 2013 offered a small glimpse of where the market is headed. Most manufacturers were still rolling out machines with Tier 4i engines, and many were still trying to recover from a year where China's infrastructure boom was reduced to a wimper. China appears to be in the recovery phase, but Europe still has a long way to go. Many of you know the story here in the U.S.

I was glad to make it back home, but I still can't help but think that in terms of transportation infrastructure--people continue to have it better in other places of the world.

Bill Wilson
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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