The Daily Need

Brits weigh in on America’s transportation network

This just in from across the pond: “America, despite its wealth and strength, often seems to be falling apart.” Not news really. But somehow it’s seems more pathetic when written by people who take high speed rail service for granted.

In a long take-out, The Economist details just how far behind the United States is when it comes to infrastructure investment, describing in great detail our debilitating traffic congestion, dysfunctional rail service, and antiquated air traffic control system.  Turns out that a recent World Economic Forum study found the United States now ranks 23rd in the world  for overall infrastructure quality.

Making matters worse, there’s also a messy bureaucracy to contend with:

The formulas used to allocate the money shape infrastructure planning in a remarkably block-headed manner. Cost-benefit studies are almost entirely lacking. Federal guidelines for new construction tend to reflect politics rather than anything else. States tend to use federal money as a substitute for local spending, rather than to supplement or leverage it.

If insult hasn’t already been added to injury, we are reminded that at  the state, local and federal levels there is surprisingly little planning for the giant population boom heading our way.  It doesn’t get discussed frequently in the popular press, but by 2050 the U.S. population is expected to grow by a whopping 40 percent–the equivalent of the entire nation of Japan!

In a recent Blueprint America interview with Alison Stewart, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell grapples with many of the issues detailed in The Economist.  Rendell, along with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, formed a non partisan group called Building America’s Future, which advocates more and smarter infrastructure investment.  Rendell tells Stewart:  “I don’t believe this [infrastructure] is a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue.”

But in Washington these days, it seems no issue is non-partisan.  As our friends from The Economist coolly conclude:

Roads, bridges and railways used to be neutral ground on which the parties could come together to support the country’s growth. But as politics has become more bitter, public works have been neglected. If the gridlock choking Washington finds its way to America’s statehouses too, then the American economy risks grinding to a standstill.

Related:
Life in the slow lane [The Economist]

 
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Comments

  • donna lee

    IF WE WANT IT WE CAN HAVE IT WE JUST DONT KNOW WE WANT IT YET MAYBE……………,,,,<<

  • wanderingblonde

    It’s much more important for our political leaders to figure out ways to deprive women of medical care and eliminate access to safe and legal abortions.

  • Guest 5

    It’s About 3000 miles from East coast to west coast.
    So taking travel time from downtown business address to airport or home to airport and vice versa on arrival. Add check in time and security checks and baggage restrictions and you are looking at 7-9 hours minimum.
    Mmmm now lets think about A maglev rail link system at say 300 mph and its almost the same 10 hours down town to down town. No hassle can use the PC all the time and Moblie phones, no baggage restrictions etc etc.
    and you can have freight and logistic Hubs as part of the planning, to reduce costs
    Japanese shinkansen are usually 16 cars long and if you have 2 as service or restaraunt cars 14*50 sets is still 2 times Aircraft capacity.
    You can use the land space of the interstate Road networks to do it, or convert existing rail Lines or double up.
    The idea that this Is a political football is what is damaging America and its economic recovery.
    Regards,
    Guest 5.

  • Drewfromct

    Cutting taxes for billionheirs takes priority over everything,

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VGQPF4SAS4BGFLDBZYCATHIVFY Chris Herz

    I tremble to think of how dangerous would be our rulers were they capable of efficient performance.

  • Anonymous

    Building a 3000-mile railroad would create lots of jobs. I’d be great for someone living on the East coast to just get on a train and be able to travel to a state on the West coast. Not everybody drives or has a (reliable) car.

  • Sulee_43221

    It already has made its way into Ohio’s Statehouse. Our newly elected Governor, John Kasich, just returned $4M to the federal government because he said Ohio does not need high-speed rail service, that it would cost too much to maintain.

    If I’m not mistaken there were a couple of other back-woods states who got stuck with republican governors as well, and these folks all returned large sums of money to the fed.

    I guess here in the midwest, we’d better start hitching up the horses if we want to get anywhere.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with high-speed rail is that it would compete with the anticipated privatization of the various highway systems, No doubt Kasich and Walker, among others, will sell their highway systems to Koch, or whoever.

  • rblevy

    On my first visit to England and Fance in March, I came down with a case of culture envy over London’s remarkable subway network and Europe’s overall transportation system. The U.S. is so far behind in this essential public service that it’s pathetic.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WIEJ2QYHBV6F23TYMV62JU5TUY Dwight Bobson

    England and Europe have had good public transportation systems since at least my first visit in 1974. They consider the needs of their total population when they decide public policy and perform public services. The U.S. is of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1%. Vote republican, then you can just die and the sooner the better.

  • Alfredo M

    Don’t hold your breath on this one.

  • RaiseMoreHell

    We need more than just high speed rail. We need electric rail of all types, especially restoring regional freight systems so local farmers can get their products to market without having to use inefficient (in terms of the farmer’s time as well as energy) pickup trucks. We could build electric rail networks in conjunction with a new grid. Our car-centered transportation system is the primary factor in the high cost of state and local government. Even about half of our criminal justice costs have to do with traffic enforcement.

    Don’t laugh about hitching up your horses, It’s more cost-effective to farm with horses already. (Plus it creates far more rural employment.) It’s just most farmers don’t know how and are trapped in the industrial ag paradigm by debt. Back before WWI, the average midwestern farmer could hitch up his team and ride to the nearest town, There he could catch a train and leave for a Florida vacation. And he often did. The 1910 wheat price, in today’s dollars equals almost $30 a bushel. Current wheat exporters are happy with $6 because of government subsidies. (There are 60 pounds of wheat in a bushel, $30 would not be an exorbitant share for the farmer producing the raw material for 60 one-pound loaves of good bread.)

  • RaiseMoreHell

    We need more than just high speed rail. We need electric rail of all types, especially restoring regional freight systems so local farmers can get their products to market without having to use inefficient (in terms of the farmer’s time as well as energy) pickup trucks. We could build electric rail networks in conjunction with a new grid. Our car-centered transportation system is the primary factor in the high cost of state and local government. Even about half of our criminal justice costs have to do with traffic enforcement.

    Don’t laugh about hitching up your horses, It’s more cost-effective to farm with horses already. (Plus it creates far more rural employment.) It’s just most farmers don’t know how and are trapped in the industrial ag paradigm by debt. Back before WWI, the average midwestern farmer could hitch up his team and ride to the nearest town, There he could catch a train and leave for a Florida vacation. And he often did. The 1910 wheat price, in today’s dollars equals almost $30 a bushel. Current wheat exporters are happy with $6 because of government subsidies. (There are 60 pounds of wheat in a bushel, $30 would not be an exorbitant share for the farmer producing the raw material for 60 one-pound loaves of good bread.)