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Why Trump's Plan Won't Fix Crumbling Infrastructure

February 26, 2018 in Economics

By Randal O’Toole

Randal O’Toole

For the past decade or so, Americans have been inundated with
propaganda about our crumbling infrastructure. According to this
narrative, our roads and bridges are falling apart and the only
solution is more federal spending.

Earlier this month, the White House released President Donald
Trump’s long-awaited infrastructure program, which promises to spend

$1.5 trillion — $200 billion from the federal government

— on several new infrastructure programs on top of what
governments already spend.

So how much of this money is dedicated to maintaining and
restoring crumbling infrastructure? Zero; nada; not one red, white,
and blue cent.

The White House says that, unlike some federal programs that are
solely dedicated to new construction, the Trump plan allows state
and local politicians to decide to spend their share of the funds
on either new projects or maintenance. But the plan doesn’t
guarantee that any of the money will be spent on maintenance.

Where infrastructure is in bad shape, it is because politicians
are allowed to decide how to spend infrastructure funds. And, as
I have argued elsewhere, some decide to build
highly visible new projects rather than maintain existing ones.

That is why Virginia is funding construction of the Silver Line and
Maryland the Purple Line rather than rehabilitating the Washington Metro system.
That is why New York City is building what the New York Times calls
the “most expensive subway in the world”— a
3.5-mile line between Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal
— rather than rehabilitate its declining subway system. That is why Boston is
building a $2.3 billion, 4.3 mile light rail extension to
Medford rather than spend the money rehabilitating its creaky rail system.

Although the Trump plan would allow states to spend their share
of new infrastructure funds on maintenance, it leaves the decision
in the hands of local politicians. They will almost always go for
the glitz rather than the routine.

To be fair, the nation’s infrastructure isn’t in as bad shape as
often claimed. We haven’t seen a bridge fail due to poor
maintenance since 1989, and since then the states have
reduced the number of structurally deficient
bridges by 60%
. The Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in 2007,
for example, was found to have failed due to a design flaw that no amount
of maintenance could have prevented. Most states and cities are
also filling potholes, and the average roughness of most roads has steadily
declined for the last two decades.

In general, our state highways, which are …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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