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Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:21 AM

Why Does U.S. Build Roads If It Can’t Pay to Fix Them?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/why-does-u-s-build-roads-if-it-can-t-pay-to-fix-them-.html



A number of years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a young friend from Germany turned to me and commented on the potholed and patched streets that surrounded us, as well as the uneven sidewalks and assorted other rough edges.

“It looks like a Third World country here,” he said. “Apparently no one cares.” To him, it was amazing that the wealthy and well-educated residents of Cambridge would tolerate such a poor public environment.

Yet in the U.S. this is more the rule than the exception. Many cities, of course, are in much worse shape than Cambridge.

Last week, Congress approved an emergency stopgap transportation-spending bill, which will give the House and Senate more time to argue over the shape and size of a long-term transportation bill. Although these debates are important, they distract from the reality on the ground, which is that much of our common infrastructure is falling apart from lack of basic maintenance.



*** we're not broke -- it's not that we can't pay to fix them -- it's that we don't.

29 replies, 1983 views

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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply Why Does U.S. Build Roads If It Can’t Pay to Fix Them? (Original post)
xchrom Apr 2012 OP
KG Apr 2012 #1
dkf Apr 2012 #3
msongs Apr 2012 #20
dkf Apr 2012 #21
RC Apr 2012 #2
dkf Apr 2012 #6
hobbit709 Apr 2012 #14
KansDem Apr 2012 #4
MineralMan Apr 2012 #5
liberal N proud Apr 2012 #7
xchrom Apr 2012 #8
Nay Apr 2012 #10
Indydem Apr 2012 #23
liberal N proud Apr 2012 #24
Indydem Apr 2012 #25
liberal N proud Apr 2012 #26
Fumesucker Apr 2012 #9
xchrom Apr 2012 #11
Mopar151 Apr 2012 #12
whoawhat Apr 2012 #13
orwell Apr 2012 #16
tularetom Apr 2012 #17
russspeakeasy Apr 2012 #15
Egalitarian Thug Apr 2012 #18
Xyzse Apr 2012 #19
Mopar151 Apr 2012 #27
Zalatix Apr 2012 #22
cbrer Apr 2012 #28
Fool Count Apr 2012 #29

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:22 AM

1. wars, to justfiy an unjustifably huge military, are much more important

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Response to KG (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:29 AM

3. That's federal money. Only local governments know where potholes are.

 

Geez if we depended on the Feds to fix potholes that would be really stupid.

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Response to dkf (Reply #3)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 12:44 PM

20. military welfare parasites suck up money that could stay at the local level nt

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Response to msongs (Reply #20)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:20 PM

21. Ie the Federal Government sucks up taxes crowding out local taxes?

 

I could go with that.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:27 AM

2. Roads? The rich don't need no roads

 

They have their Lear jets and helicopters.

You will notice that the streets and roads around the Snob Hill and Gated Communities all seem to have well maintained streets. Snow removal too.

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Response to RC (Reply #2)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:34 AM

6. Is this really what you think? Everything bad or unsatisfactory is because of rich people?

 

Maybe it's due to prioritization. If I had to guess I'd say it's because the locals are finding exploding health care costs for their employees, retirees and the poor are sucking up more and more money.

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Response to dkf (Reply #6)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:54 AM

14. ?????????

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:31 AM

4. To encourage consumption: cars, tires, gas, oil, and the like...

Documentary General- Motors- History = Taken- for- a -Ride

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:32 AM

5. Part of it is that new roads are seen as good things.

Fixing old roads is "construction" and is seen to be annoying, because it slows down commutes. In Minnesota, we are now entering the dreaded "construction" season, which lasts from April through October. Those road repairs slow everyone down every year. Then, in the winter, the snow and ice does the same. It's a vicious cycle.

But, a brand new road? That holds the promise of faster, easier travel. It's never realized in truth, but it's out there as an exciting possibility.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:35 AM

7. Can't pay or won't pay

The GOP will build the roads because someone with a construction company can get rich building it. Things like bridges to nowhere and things like that.

They don't want to spend the money to keep them in good working order because much of that work falls on a government agency, the Highway Departments in each state.

Let them privatize the roads so someone can get rich and they will be all over repairs.

It is simple greed that keeps our highways in the terrible shape they are.

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Response to liberal N proud (Reply #7)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:36 AM

8. like i say -- the country is far from broke -- so i vote -- it won't pay. nt

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Response to liberal N proud (Reply #7)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:38 AM

10. U said it before I could. New roads enrich a private constr company - repairs are done by the state.

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Response to liberal N proud (Reply #7)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:23 PM

23. Frankly, this is a ridiculous argument.

Patching potholes may be a highway department job, but resurfacing and major repairs are still done by private companies.

What about Democrat states? Are their roads smooth and shiney?

No, this whole issue is systemic, and party and capitalism has nothing to do with it.

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Response to Indydem (Reply #23)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:28 PM

24. Illinois is the only state that I know that is rebuilding its roads

They have been for several years.

There may be others but I cannot verify that.

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Response to liberal N proud (Reply #24)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:31 PM

25. I regularly drive from IN to WI

Indiana's roads are quite well maintained (funded by the trust funded by leasing the public toll road to a private foreign corporation, but that's another issue).

Illinois roads are NOTHING to be proud of, IMHO.

But, by far, WI roads are the GD worst.

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Response to Indydem (Reply #25)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:45 PM

26. I drove I80 this week and do regularly

They are continually rebuilding it in sections, replacing bridges and roadway. There are a lot of miles to replace and it will take several years, but it is more than you see in most states these days.

The Indiana toll road is an example of what the right wants for all of America, private roads. Roads for profit do not seem to make for better roads either IMO.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:37 AM

9. It's kind of like the way Democrats chase conservative voters and ignore or disparage liberals.

New roads are seen as bringing new development while fixing old ones.. where the hell else are you gonna drive?

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #9)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:40 AM

11. ...

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:45 AM

12. Its VERY simple

Deferring maintainence is a short term budget fix, very easy to justify the first couple times. As we see, the long term costs get big once you've blown off a whole maintainence cycle, go up exponentially from there.
And it is easy to dismiss perodic maintainence as "empire building" or self-generating beauraucracy - particularly to those who think working for the Highway Department is an easy, good-paying, "cushy" job.

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Response to Mopar151 (Reply #12)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:47 AM

13. +1

 

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Response to Mopar151 (Reply #12)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:58 AM

16. This is exactly right...

...all new infrastructure projects, whether roads, power plants, water systems, are built without regard to long term maintenance. I read a very disturbing study about this just the other day.

In essence, if long term maintenance/replacement costs were figured in to these large projects they would never get built. Taxes would have to be raised exponentially to support them. The scam is that politicians can book short term tax base increases without the long term tax rate increases to support the total cost of ownership.

This is what drove the post war suburban expansion that is now blowing up in our faces. To use a popular term - it is an unfunded mandate that can not be paid.

Here is the article:

http://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme/

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Response to Mopar151 (Reply #12)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 12:05 PM

17. I could post volumes on this topic

As far as rural roads are concerned, they are generally maintained by county government. The money to do so comes in the form of subventions from state and federal gas tax receipts. But budget priorities in the expenditure of these funds are determined by a board of elected officials who are in office for terms of 4 years. These elected folks, knowing they are going to be gone after no more than two or three terms, take the short term view when allocating gas tax dollars. And the short term view definitely does not involve the very unsexy expenditure of road funds for maintenance. Much better for you political future to get your picture taken cutting the ribbon for a new road or bridge than patching a pothole.

The good part about this is the gas tax funds cannot be used for things like building new county buildings or hiring more sheriffs or clerks in the finance department. But the people responsible for maintaining the roads are often overruled by the short term thinking of elected officials. Of course those same elected officials are quick to jump on you when constituents complain about the condition of their roads.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:54 AM

15. As usual, follow the money..

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 12:09 PM

18. I have yet to see any state where the DOT is not a sinkhole of

 

sweetheart deals for the politically connected. Even when the taxpayers pony up or a pile of federal dollars are granted, the funds just disappear into deep pockets and the really rich neighborhoods get all that's left over.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 12:20 PM

19. Well:

Roads are built to create jobs.
Unlike the European system where built roads are guaranteed for at least 10 years or more, the US road system has no guarantees, just looking for the cheapest cost.
Secondly, by allowing the US to have cheaply made roads that don't last long, it is an excuse for the government to pay more road workers to keep them in business.

It is a jobs subsidy program after all.

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Response to Xyzse (Reply #19)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 11:57 PM

27. In reply to your post, and 1 above it

Maybe things are different in NH - but we have what they call specifications for road work. In fact, when the Interstate system was built, the states determined the specs that their Interstates were built to, as they were more likely to understand local conditions.
A NH Interstate roadbed is 5' deep, with layers of crushed rock and gravel. We have 50 year old interstates and major highways that are smooth as new. But - NH ain't everywhere. This is a small state, and everybody knows everybody - so it's easy to detect a state highway engineer taking a bribe, and substandard materials are detected before they leave the crusher. Indeed, a bid-rigging scandal among the the biggest paving contractors went undetected for decades, because they always did top quality work, and did'nt get greedy - they mostly rigged the bids to work closer to their own plants. Indeed, the quality of paving hereabouts suffered considerably during the 3 years they were enjoined from bidding.
Our neighbor to the south is another story - specs are shaky, and often not met. There are so may "Authourities" that nobody can keep track of where what is going, or who's in charge of what. And you don't want to know what Boston is built on top of.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:21 PM

22. Congress is waiting until we can find a way to outsource the work to China

 

like California did the SF-Golden Gate Bridge.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sat Apr 7, 2012, 05:04 AM

28. Woulda' Shoulda' Coulda'

 

This is going to bite us in the ass, along with a list of other infrastruture shortcomings, and other social net failures.

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Response to xchrom (Original post)

Sat Apr 7, 2012, 07:03 AM

29. It doesn't. US built roads in the past when they still used to make stuff to be transported

 

on them. The infrastructure built to support the industrial and manufacturing powerhouse that
US once was is clearly excessive and too expensive to maintain for the "service and information
economy" that it is now.

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