Archive for the ‘bridges’ Category

Obama’s Stimulus: Routine Repairs; Lacks “Power to stir men’s souls”

December 14, 2008

President-elect  Barack Obama calls it “the largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.” New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg compares it to the New Deal — when workers built hundreds of bridges, dams and parkways — while saying it could help close the gap with China, where he recently traveled on a Shanghai train at 267 mph.

By Alec MacGillis and Michael D. Shear
The Washington Post

Above: Shanghai’s high speed train

Most of the infrastructure spending being proposed for the massive stimulus package that Obama and congressional Democrats are readying, however, is not exactly the stuff of history, but destined for routine projects that have been on the to-do lists of state highway departments for years. Oklahoma wants to repave stretches of Interstates 35 and 40 and build “cable barriers” to keep wayward cars from crossing medians. New Jersey wants to repaint 88 bridges and restore Route 35 from Toms River to Mantoloking. Scottsdale, Ariz., wants to widen 1.5 miles of Scottsdale Road.

On the campaign trail, Obama said he would “rebuild America” with an “infrastructure bank” run by a new board that would award $60 billion over a decade to projects such as high-speed rail to take the country in a more energy-efficient direction. But the crumbling economy, while giving impetus to big spending plans, has also put a new emphasis on projects that can be started immediately — “use it or lose it,” Obama said last week — and created a clear tension between the need to create jobs fast and the desire for a lasting legacy.

“It doesn’t have the power to stir men’s souls,” said David Goldberg of Smart Growth America. “Repair and maintenance are good. We need to make sure we’re building bridges that stand, not bridges to nowhere. But to gild the lily . . . where we’re resurfacing pieces of road that aren’t that critical, just to be able to say we spent the money, is not what we’re after.”

Obama is, Viewed Pragmatically, Interested in “What Works,” Practically

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Critics From Right and Left Call Obama’s Stimulus “Road to Nowhere”

December 11, 2008

Barack Obama’s massive infrastructure spending plan to jump-start the economy isn’t being criticized just by conservative critics. His chief economic adviser once called the idea one of the “less effective options” the president-elect is now promoting.

In a strategy paper in January that studied various economic stimulus proposals, economist Jason Furman wrote that spending hundreds of billions of dollars to repair or rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, rail lines and other infrastructure was “likely to be less effective in spurring economic activity.”

The reason: Big infrastructure spending bills “do not provide well-timed stimulus or because there is considerable economic and administrative uncertainty about how they might work,” Mr. Furman said.

While such public works spending “might provide an important boost to long-term growth,” he doubted it “would generate significant short-term stimulus” because all too often the money is not pumped into the nation’s economic bloodstream “until after the economy had recovered.”

The Washington Times 

One expects Mr. Obama’s fiscally conservative economic critics to beat up his big-spending, New Deal-era idea, but when his top economic adviser puts his plan’s core in the “less effective options” column, that’s news.

But even other supporters of his giant stimulus have begun voicing doubts about whether a huge spending package, possibly in the $500 billion to $700 billion range, can be spent quickly enough to have an impact on the recession. And some of them fear the spending may result in more wasteful pork-barrel spending.

The Obama plan will likely include, among other things, tax rebates for low- to middle-income workers, unemployment compensation and increased food stamps, Medicaid funding and other social safety net assistance. But infrastructure spending, pushed by the nation’s governors, has become the plan’s chief focus.

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