$27 Billion in Stimulus Package for Highways to Hell


Miss Concrete and Miss Blacktop Open Interstate I-94

It's not just the bike-riding, train-hopping, anti-suburb eco-lefties who are questioning $27 billion for roads and highways in the stimulus plan; some thoughtful conservative writers have concerns as well, and not for the usual reasons about spending money instead of reducing taxes. Christopher Caldwell, an editor at the Weekly Standard, writes in the Financial Times about another huge stimulus project set in motion by the Highway Act of 1956, noting that it caused:

"spoliation of the environment, dependence on foreign oil, overburdening of state and local budgets, abandonment of the inner-city poor and reckless speculation in real-estate development"

Caldwell describes the results:

The Act speeded up the erosion of public transportation infrastructure, which the federal government is now spending dearly to revive. Freight trains had to compete against trucks that sped along taxpayer-funded roads. Highways marred the landscape. Some of the prettiest neighbourhoods in the US – Mt Adams in Cincinnati, the North End of Boston – were effectively walled off from the cities they once belonged to, and the encirclement of Detroit’s neighbourhoods by highways is often cited as a primary cause of its decline.

He concludes by noting that government intervention doesn't always make things better, which no doubt is sometimes true, but in this case could make things a lot worse.

The largest building project in Mr Obama’s Recovery Act is $27bn for roads, and there have been no complaints that the government will have a hard time finding things to spend it on. The US has big economic problems. But they have been made worse, and harder to resolve, by a half-century in which, at federal urging, the country was misbuilt.

Financial Times via Richard Florida
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Tags: Barack Obama | Transportation

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