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Crumbling : when it comes to the nationís infrastructure, money isnít the main problem.
Cafe Hayek ^ | 09/05/2011 | RUSS ROBERTS

Posted on 09/05/2011 3:01:02 PM PDT by SeekAndFind

Whenever someone writes about infrastructure or bridges, they always use the word “crumbling” and say that we have neglected our infrastrucutre. We have to spend more, we’re told.

It is good to remember this picture from David Leonhardt’s November 2008 column on infrastructure that shows that federal spending on infrastructure as a proportion of GDP was actually higher in 2008 than it had been any time since 1981.

Here is Leonhardt’s assessment of the problem. This, of course, is before the stimulus passed. But Leonhardt was prescient about the problems:

The House recently passed a bill that would allocate $18 billion for new construction projects. Barack Obama has signaled that he will sign a version of that bill and probably ask for tens of billions of dollars of additional spending to create badly needed jobs and help fix up America in the process. Money is going to start flowing.

And yet when it comes to the nation’s infrastructure, money isn’t the main problem.

A lack of adequate financing is part of the problem, without doubt. But the bigger problem has been an utter lack of seriousness in deciding how that money gets spent. And as long as we’re going to stimulate the economy by spending money on roads, bridges and the like, we may as well do it right.

It’s hard to exaggerate how scattershot the current system is. Government agencies usually don’t even have to do a rigorous analysis of a project or how it would affect traffic and the environment, relative to its cost and to the alternatives — before deciding whether to proceed. In one recent survey of local officials, almost 80 percent said they had based their decisions largely on politics, while fewer than 20 percent cited a project’s potential benefits.

There are monuments to the resulting waste all over the country: the little-traveled Bud Shuster Highway in western Pennsylvania; new highways in suburban St. Louis and suburban Maryland that won’t alleviate traffic; all the fancy government-subsidized sports stadiums that have replaced perfectly good existing stadiums. These are the Bridges to (Almost) Nowhere that actually got built.

They help explain why our infrastructure is in such poor shape even though spending on it, surprisingly enough, has risen at a good clip in recent decades. Spending is up 50 percent over the last 10 years, after adjusting for inflation. As a share of the economy, it will be higher this year than in any year since 1981.

So if you talk to people who spend their lives studying infrastructure, you’ll hear two reactions to the attention that Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and even some Republicans are now lavishing on the subject. The first is: Thank goodness. The second is: Please, please don’t just pour more money into the current system.

“The system is fundamentally broken. We send a blank check and kind of hope for the best,” Robert Puentes, the infrastructure maven at the Brookings Institution, told me. “We need an extreme makeover.”

We’re always being told that we need to spend more money to fix the problem. That is much easier than fixing how the money is spent.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: crumbling; infrastructure

1 posted on 09/05/2011 3:01:05 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind
The problem with road rebuilding is there is no damn accountability. There was a job on I 81 near Bristol Tennessee a few years back, the cost over run, was about thirty million, the local v dot had a commission study the issue. They paid a million dollars to to find the cause. The commission report was like of supervision was the cause. So the same incompetent a hole that blew the 30 was the same incompetent a hole that blew the million.
2 posted on 09/05/2011 3:10:24 PM PDT by org.whodat (What does the Republican party stand for////??? absolutely nothing.)
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To: org.whodat

Look to the building of the Mackinaw bridge in the 50s to what we used to be able to do. A pretty amazing feat done in under 3 years at minimal cost of under $200 million. Today replacing the bridge deck will cost over $300 million. (before cost overruns and delays)


3 posted on 09/05/2011 3:18:30 PM PDT by cripplecreek (A vote for Amnesty is a vote for a Permenant Democrat majority. ..Choose well.)
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To: cripplecreek

Have one of your pics of the Mackinac Bridge, CC?

Pretty cool. Windy, too.

;>


5 posted on 09/05/2011 3:21:17 PM PDT by combat_boots (The Lion of Judah cometh. Hallelujah. Gloria Patri, Filio et Spiritui Sancto.)
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To: combat_boots
No winter construction in building the Big Mac either. I don't feel like digging up the stats but its pretty shocking in a side by side comparison of the stats for building the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge. Heck, the towers of the Mackinaw are nearly 1000 feet from the lakebed to the tops.

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6 posted on 09/05/2011 3:30:32 PM PDT by cripplecreek (A vote for Amnesty is a vote for a Permenant Democrat majority. ..Choose well.)
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To: F15Eagle
Infrastructure is a result of economy, not a driver. That's where liberals are ass backward. They look at the great infrastructure projects from the 40s to the 60s as great economic drivers but they were a result of a booming economy.

When they first started talking about letting some Michigan roads return to dirt I thought it was shameful but after much thought, I'm not so sure. Around my hometown, many of the dirt roads of my youth were paved to cope with heavy trucks building oilfield infrastructure. Today those trucks are almost all gone other than the occasional brine truck. Other than that, there are still only a few houses on those roads. Frankly I can't see the justification of keeping many of them paved for a handful of residents.

The "street" I live on and I'm just fine.

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7 posted on 09/05/2011 3:43:27 PM PDT by cripplecreek (A vote for Amnesty is a vote for a Permenant Democrat majority. ..Choose well.)
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To: org.whodat

Meanwhile, we take our lives in our hands because we are forced to use these rotten roads and bridges. OK is one of the worst offenders. Instead of improving and fixing the roads and bridges, politicians and local economic development types are always dreaming up expensive projects that waste taxpayer money. People are dying because our government is so incompetent.


8 posted on 09/05/2011 4:04:36 PM PDT by Pining_4_TX ( The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else. ~)
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To: org.whodat

Meanwhile, we take our lives in our hands because we are forced to use these rotten roads and bridges. OK is one of the worst offenders. Instead of improving and fixing the roads and bridges, politicians and local economic development types are always dreaming up expensive projects that waste taxpayer money. People are dying because our government is so incompetent.


9 posted on 09/05/2011 4:06:36 PM PDT by Pining_4_TX ( The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else. ~)
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To: Pining_4_TX

The people mover in Detroit is rider funded at a rate of 7% meaning that the taxpayers pick up the other 93% through transportation funding and other taxes.

In San Fransisco, millions were spent to bury sensors in parking lots to work with a phone app that finds empty parking lots. It came out of transportation money and now Seattle wants some of that action too.


10 posted on 09/05/2011 4:12:06 PM PDT by cripplecreek (A vote for Amnesty is a vote for a Permenant Democrat majority. ..Choose well.)
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To: F15Eagle; cripplecreek

We’ve added, by my count, next to nothing in industrial capacity or production over the last 15 years, but somehow we need more roads to transport it all to market?

Classic case of Cargo Cult thinking.

In reality, we’re probably WAY overbuilt if the goal is to be able to price our products competitively in world markets. All that precious spending on education and infrastructure just adds to the final cost of all goods produced here. Every. Last. Dime.


12 posted on 09/06/2011 3:45:29 PM PDT by CowboyJay ("Rick Perry has more red flags than a May Day parade." - fieldmarshalj)
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To: CowboyJay
Cargo Cult thinking

Gonna have to remember that.

Obviously we can't afford to let major highways, roads, and bridges fall into disrepair but lots of side roads with minimal traffic will be just fine without pavement.
13 posted on 09/06/2011 4:09:49 PM PDT by cripplecreek (A vote for Amnesty is a vote for a Permenant Democrat majority. ..Choose well.)
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To: SeekAndFind

We no longer need to fix roads and bridges. Fewer people can afford to travel. So...we do not need them.
Geesh it is easy.


14 posted on 09/06/2011 4:12:26 PM PDT by dforest
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