FRANKFURT — It was a scene that had become all too common on the autobahn. Hundreds of heavy trucks slowed to a crawl on diverted routes into Germany's fourth-largest city. The usual bridge crossing over the Rhine from Leverkusen into Cologne could no longer support their weight.
"When you see steel breaking, the steel ripping apart, then you get an idea of what it means to have an old bridge in desperate need of repair," said Ernst Grigat, head of chemical facility operator Chempark, which runs three industrial complexes in Germany including one in Leverkusen.
Crumbling bridges and traffic jams are staining Germany's global reputation for efficiency. The infrastructure in Europe's largest economy — as in the United States — has been slowly deteriorating from a lack of investment over the past few decades. Now the budget-conscious German government is stepping up efforts to rebuild the country's roads, bridges, railways and waterways before it's too late.