Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Transportation Case Study 3B: Giving more money to roads

This is the second point of view that the national budget needs to be redistributed and that infrastructure should be made a priority over other initiatives that are receiving more funded: Mainly, the Iraqi War:

The first of two articles is:
Newspaper: TC Daily Plannet
Byline: Richard Lee Dechert
Date: 8/7/2007

The I-35W Bridge: A Casualty of Pennies and Priorities

this http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/article/2007/08/07/i-35w-bridge-casualty-pennies-and-priorities.htmlpage
Reprint rights
By Richard Lee Dechert , Special to the TC Daily Planet
A perfect example of those pennies and priorities is the $687.6-million Iraq War cost for the City of Minneapolis, and $11 billion for the State of Minnesota.(1)

The $687.6 million is more than half of the 1.3-billion 2007 Minneapolis spending budget,(2) which in turn is only about two-thirds of a $1.8-billion Bechtel National construction contract. According to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, contract objectives were met on less than half of the projects.(3)

Opinion:The I-35W Bridge: A Casualty of Pennies and Priorities
The $11 billion nearly equals the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) spending budgets for 2002 to 2007, a period which spans the war.(4) That cost is only about a fourth of the "roughly $40 billion in American taxpayer money spent on the troubled program to rebuild Iraq."(3)
Overall, we have paid $462 billion for a fraudulent war, at a $1,500 per-capita cost.(1)

Per the American Society of Civil Engineers,"27.1 percent of the nation's 590,750 bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2003. A 2005 "Report Card . . . estimates it will cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies."(5)

Yet Iraq War godfather "Bill Kristol claimed the Minneapolis bridge collapse didn't 'symbolize any great failure of our infrastructure.' Bush said he would veto a bill that would increase the national bridge and highway maintenance budget from $4 billion to $5 billion."(6)

Mn/DOT projected a $200-million cost to reconstruct the bridge; Congress quickly passed a $250-million bill that also funds Twin City transit costs.(7).

Per Larry Pogemiller, DFL Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate, the "failure of this bridge metaphors the under funding of infrastructure improvement throughout the system. . . . The competency and quality of government is in question."(8)

Per DFL Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, we have "at least a $15-billion problem" for not investing "over a 12-year construction cycle . . . an issue for the Commissioner (of Transportation, Republican Carol Molnau), people like myself, and the Governor (Republican Tim Pawlenty)."(9)
Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, lead Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, replied "that even if we had passed a significant gas-tax increase (which Pawlenty twice vetoed), I'm not so sure it would have made a difference, unfortunately, in this situation . . . it's a matter of priorities."(8)

"John Adams, an urban geographer at the University of Minnesota, says public infrastructure like 35W has been taken for granted for decades . . . politicians have been trying to do government on the cheap.'"(10)

The monetary costs of the bankrupt Iraq War may exceed $2.3 trillion. Its unrecoverable human costs are 52 dead and 441 physically or mentally wounded Minnesotans, along with 3,398 and 25,395, respectively, from other states. (1)

Merging those costs with penny-wise, pound-foolish presidents, members of Congress, governors, state legislators, and people who support them--a shattered bridge, blocked river, choked roads, harmed companies, over 100 injured Minnesotans, at least 13 dead ones, their traumatized loved ones, and the shocked people of our state and nation--an I-35W collapse is sadly predictable but totally unacceptable.

As a tearful and angry Amy Klobuchar said: "A bridge in America just shouldn't fall down!"

This second article is one that I just loved and agreed with, and it's not neccessary to read for understanding the case studied (AKA if you think this case study is too much reading, skip this article), but I just wanted it to have a wider audience and be read by more people:
August 2, 2007 Thursday 11:29 AM Eastern Time Actually, It Is Terrorism - by Greg Anrig, Jr. LENGTH: 674 wordsDATELINE: NEW YORK Aug. 2
Following is commentary by Greg Anrig, Jr. vice president of programs at The Century Foundation. Anrig is a regular columnist for The Guardian. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Conservatives Have No Clothes: Why Right-Wing Ideas Keep Failing" (John Wiley & Sons, September 2007).
- - - -
The news coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, like that of the New York City steam pipe explosion a couple of weeks ago, was filled with expressions of relief that the incident seemed to be unrelated to terrorism. But for the families of those killed or injured, the distinction won't be any consolation. And for the rest of us, it shouldn't be either. Why should it be any more comforting to know that intentional sabotage was not responsible for the bridge collapse, when chances are that whatever contributing structural deterioration that occurred over its 40 years is no doubt far more pervasive in the transportation systems we all use every day.
Making us less vulnerable to sudden, out-of-the-blue preventable disasters is the job of government. And a collapsing bridge, an exploding underground steam pipe, the inadequate levees in New Orleans, or the countless breakdowns in infrastructure that Steve Perlstein (http://commonsense.ourfuture.org/thebigcon) chronicles on an everyday basis are virtually all preventable and therefore constitute failures of government. Cutting taxes some more isn't going to solve this form of terrorism. Nor will prattling on with banalities about limited government. Nor will continuing to leave the process to the whims of the likes of Sen. "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens.
Unfortunately, "investing in infrastructure," stated as such, probably isn't much more of a winning political plank today than it was a week ago. The right has successfully programmed the public's brain cells to convert that soporific phrase to the word "pork." Based on my extensive googling for a half hour, none of the major Democratic candidates have said much about the topic outside of how it relates to the environment and global warming. (Commenters should definitely correct me if I'm wrong). I didn't bother googling the Republican candidates since all conservatism has to say about infrastructure is silliness related to the efficiencies of selling chunks of it to private owners.
So rather than talking about infrastructure as such, maybe politicians should focus on the subject as a matter of public security, which it most definitely is. Just as the government is responsible for protecting the public from terrorism, it is equally responsible for protecting citizens against lethal failures of bridges, roadways, other transportation systems, and underground structures that can cause collapses. And developing a far more effective and efficient strategy for improving public security against disasters like the one in Minneapolis requires the leadership of individuals who actually believe in government's capacity to solve problems - a belief fundamentally at odds with the modern conservative movement, as demonstrated in recent years. Those candidates might want to take a close look at the ideas put forward by the group led by Felix Rohatyn and Warren Rudman, summarized in a piece in the Washington Post two years ago (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/12/AR2005121201 263_pf.html).
Whatever particular causes emerge for the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge, conservatives have no answers for preventing the same kind of thing from continuing to happen again and again. As Perlstein continually argues, they have much to do with why it keeps happening in the first place. The rest of us better find someone who isn't cowed by the "pork, pork, pork" crowd on the right who is willing to suggest some ideas that will work.