Archive for the ‘Roads, bridges, infrastructure’ Category

Biden: “Infrastructure bill has money to fix all bridges”

February 2, 2022

Does it? More broadly, what else is in the infrastructure bill?

When I heard Biden in Pittsburgh asserting that all bridges would be fixed, I chalked it up as the usual political puffery. No big deal.

But, his claim prompted another self-reaction: I should know what’s in the lauded Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill … and, I don’t.

“Millions of us have grown too comfortable pronouncing ourselves passionate about a problem we don’t bother to understand.” Holman Jenkins, WSJ

So, I did some retrospective digging.

First. the numbers …


The price tag for the infrastructure bill: $1.2 trillion.

About $650 billion of the $1.2 trillion law is earmarked for existing transportation and highway programs.

Think of that portion as routine annual maintenance expense.

That leaves about $550 billion in “new” spending … most of which will be doled out over the next five years.

click chart to enlarge it 

Drilling down on the $550 billion of new spending:

> Roughly 2/3’s goes to 5 spending categories: roads & bridges, trains, broadband, electrical grid and water grid

> $110 billion goes to the top category roads & bridges.

An estimated 173,000 miles of roads and 45,000 bridges are in major need of maintenance

Assuming that category’s money is evenly split between roads and bridges, that works out to about $300,000 per mile for needy roads and about $1.25 million per needy bridge.

> About $100 billion (about 20%) of the $550 billion in new spending is sprinkled across initiatives (some specifically listed, some not) that don’t fall in one of the top 10 spending categories listed above.

Call me cynical, but the words that come to mind are “earmarks”, “pet projects”, “kickbacks” and “slush funds”.


Those are the top-line numbers.

Keep reading for the gory details…


More: Before you get too excited about the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill …

November 9, 2021

WSJ: Strong leadership will be essential to ensure the projects are completed on time and on budget.

Yesterday we tried to rein in infrastructure bill excitement since:

  • Less than half of the trillion dollars is going to roads, bridges, electrical grid and other “hard” infrastructure
  • Save for Eisenhower’s interstate highways and Kennedy’s moon landing, the Federal government’s recent track record on big projects  is less than stellar. Think: “shovel ready”, “cash for clunkers”. Solyndra and the SoCal-to-Vegas bullet train

On cue, the WSJ ran a Harvard prof’s op-ed: “Don’t Let the Infrastructure Bill Become a Boondoggle”.

The article highlighted the infrastructure’ bill’s size and complexity, its political overtones … and the need for strong managerial leadership.

Here’s a condensed version…


An Analogy

Boston’s Big Dig highway project began in 1991.

It was supposed to have been completed in 1998 at a cost of $2.8 billion.

Instead, it wasn’t finished until 2007, and the total cost (including debt financing) has been estimated at around $23 billion.

The project improved Boston, but its legacy was tarnished by waste, corruption, design flaws and poor execution

Once Pres. Biden signs the bill into law, the true work of fixing our infrastructure will begin.

The bill could easily lead to out-of-control costs, blown deadlines, and both real and metaphorical bridges to nowhere.


The Infrastructure Bill

At more than $1 trillion, the size and complexity of the infrastructure bill guarantee that it will be difficult to implement.

The plan will involve nearly every corner of the often unwieldy government bureaucracy.

Large-scale projects inevitably provoke battles for funding and cause confusion over who is doing what to carry out the plan and time-wasting arguments over jurisdiction.


The Need for Leadership

Successfully enacting the provisions of the infrastructure bill requires leaders who can:

  • Break tasks down into deliverable items
  • Create teams with clear responsibilities
  • Establish milestones and measures
  • Hold people accountable

Biden will probably appoint a series of czars to oversee different parts of the bill.

He needs to resist appointing political leaders who lack experience managing large bureaucratic organizations..

President Biden must assemble a great team of leaders.


Color me pessimistic

Keep in mind :

> 55% of Americans say the Biden administration is not “competent in running the government.” Source

> There’s just cause for the rating: the border, the Afghan withdrawal, the snarled supply chain, soaring energy costs, etc.

> Biden has already assembled a team that can’t shoot straight:

  • Harris … who has done such a great job as Border Czar
  • Buttiigieg … when he makes it into the office
  • Raimondo … who says there’s nothing that can be done to unjam the supply chain
  • Granholm (who laughs off our surging gas prices)?

In the sage words of former President Obama: “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f–k things up.”

Before you get too excited about the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill …

November 8, 2021

Remember “shovel ready”, “cash for clunkers”. Solyndra and the SoCal-to-Vegas bullet train?

According to a recent USA Today poll:

The infrastructure bill, which passed Friday with some bipartisan support, is backed by 2-1 (61%-32%) among those surveyed.

Almost everybody agrees that major parts of our infrastructure — roads, bridges, electrical grid, broadband, drinking water — need to be upgraded.

Other parts of the infrastructure have strong urban, coastal and climate control support — e.g.  inter-city rail (especially DC to Boston), metro area public transportation, EV subsidies and charging stations.

Below is list of infrastructure programs included in the bill

For the sake of argument, let’s assume all of the above are worthwhile endeavors.

Here are some things to think about…


How much on “infrastructure”?

> For openers, according to a Forbes recap, less than half of the $1.2 trillion — $550 billion — is going into hard infrastructure …  the rest goes to the usual grab bag of government giveaways, pork  and crony paybacks.


Deliverables, schedule and budget?

> Of course, this program will end up  taking forever (thanks to gov’t red tape and climate control reviews) and go way over budget.

There will be union and diversity requirements on all contractors …, and, a shortage of certifiably vaccinated labor will push wages through the roof.


Government track record?

> The Federal government’s most recent track record on these omnibus programs is less than stellar.  Just flashback to the Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The ARRA gave us “shovel ready”, “cash for clunkers”. Solyndra and the SoCal-to-Vegas bullet train.

Off the top of your head, can you name any significant infrastructure improvement that came out of that program?


Who’s in charge?

> Who — from among the gang that can’t shoot straight — is going to manage this trillion dollar project? Biden (who Obama tasked to oversee the ARRA)? Harris (who has done such a great job as Border Czar)? Buttiigieg (when he gets back from his paternity leave)? Granholm (who laughs off our surging gas prices)?

Seriously, who’s going to run this massive project?

The only “for sure”: Nobody will be held accountable.


What are the odds?

By the law of averages, something good may come from this massive program, but I’m bracing for disappointment … even faster inflation with few concrete infrastructure successes to point to.

In a few years (or months), we’ll be hearing: “Gotta upgrade our infrastructure”.

In the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill:

Roads and bridges: Headlining the 2,702-page bill‘s spending, roughly $110 billion of new funds would go toward improving the nation’s roads and bridges, and investments in other major transportation programs.

Public transit: The package also includes the largest-ever federal investment in public transit, allotting $39 billion to modernize systems, improve access for the elderly and people with disabilities, and repair more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars and thousands of miles of train tracks.

Amtrak: The legislation marks the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago, with $66 billion earmarked for high-speed rail, safety improvements, Amtrak grants and to modernize the rail route connecting Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Broadband internet: Tacking on to billions authorized by last year’s American Rescue Plan, the infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to bolster the country’s broadband infrastructure and help ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, with one in four households expected to be eligible for a $30-per-month subsidy to pay for internet.

Electric grid: Though many clean-energy measures were cut from the bill to satisfy spending-weary lawmakers, a $65 billion investment will help upgrade the nation’s electricity grid, with thousands of miles of new transmission lines and funds for environmentally friendly smart-grid technology.

Electric cars, buses and ferries: In addition to $7.5 billion for the nation’s first network of electric-vehicle chargers along highway corridors, lawmakers have shored up $5 billion for zero-emission buses (including thousands of electric school buses) and $2.5 billion for ferries.

Clean drinking water: Following high-profile water-supply crises plaguing cities like Flint, Michigan, the legislation includes a provision for $55 billion to replace all the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, representing the largest investment in clean drinking water ever.

Great rivers and lakes: Among the bill’s $48 billion for water infrastructure improvements, about $1 billion is slated to go toward the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a sweeping clean-up measure targeting toxic hot spots—or areas of heavy industrial pollution—around the Great Lakes region.

Airports: More than $25 billion has been allocated to help modernize America’s airports—funds the Airports Council International says will help tackle more than $115 billion worth of project backlogs.

Road safety: The deal invests $11 billion in transportation safety programs, including a new program to help states and localities reduce crashes and fatalities in their communities, particularly among cyclists and pedestrians.

Sources: Forbes, Zero Hedge

The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling … oh, really ?

September 10, 2010

The collapse of the Minneapolis bridge a couple of years ago was, indeed, a disaster.  One that prompted hysteria about the sad shape of all roads and bridges in the U.S. 

At the time, I thought “over-reaction”.

In fact, I can’t recollect hearing about any major bridge collapses since

Sure, I’d like pot holes filled and more lanes on the DC Beltway … but is the infrastructure perilously crumbling?

Here’s an interesting twist …

* * * * *

Excerpted from RCP: Can You Smell What Obama’s Cooking?, September 8, 2010

President Obama unveiled “an exhilarating new plan” that will not only “jump-start” job creation but also fund and rebuild the “crumbling” infrastructure of the United States.

Have you noticed that the infrastructure always is “crumbling” in news stories and presidential speeches — if less regularly in the real world.

For those of you who drive, though, a recent Reason Foundation study measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of roads — including deficient bridges, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates, pavement condition, etc. — and finds that roads haven’t been in better shape at any time in the past 19 years.

Full article:

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