I was afraid that this was going to happen:
When President-elect Barack Obama announced last month that he would revive the economy with the largest public works program since the dawn of the Interstate System of highways, advocates for the nation’s long-neglected infrastructure were euphoric.
Some hoped that the time had finally come to bring high-speed rail to the United States, or to wean the nation from its dependence on foreign oil with new or transformed public transit systems, or to take bold action to solve the problems of rising populations and falling reservoir levels across the Southwest.
But those hopes are fading. As the details of the plan come into focus, big transformative building projects seem unlikely. And the plan does not begin to provide the kind of money that civil engineers believe is needed to bring the nation’s aging bridges and water systems and roads and transit systems to a state of good repair.
Honestly, I’ve never understood the aversion that conservative Republicans in general and George Bush in particular have towards putting money into transporation and other public infrastructure. The blunt truth is that, for all of the whining that took place (and all of the guff that Sarah Palin put up for it,) the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska has more potential to raise the productivity of the United States than the vast majority of entitlements that government hands out.
The general financial situation of the Federal government, coupled with that of the states, will make allocating funds to this difficult, even in a “stimulus mode.” The general trend in American governmental budget allocation has been towards entitlements, and reversing that habit won’t be easy. For the most part the states don’t have the option of deficit spending.
That crowding out effect is exaserbated by the House’s desire to be trendy with “high tech” projects when the basics of our infrastructure are woefully behind.
The opposite of progress is…