The trillion dollar infrastructure boondoggle will cost much more, and deliver even less
Democrats hoping to avoid a wipeout in the 2022 elections are busy touting the many supposed benefits and virtues of their trillion-dollar infrastructure bill.
But as anyone who has followed infrastructure stories over the years knows, building roads or repair bridges has gotten a lot more expensive. Increased bureaucracy plays a role. Higher material and wage costs do, too. Then there’s just the inconvenient fact that it’s all government work, and a degree of waste, fraud and abuse is all but guaranteed.
Consider this New York Times assessment of a few choice infrastructure boondoggles:
As Honolulu sprawled into new suburbs west of Pearl Harbor over the last two decades, city planners proposed an ambitious rail transit line that would sweep riders 20 miles into downtown. The $4 billion estimate in 2006 was hardly cheap, amounting to $200 million per mile.
The cost escalation since then has been an engineering marvel all its own. Concerns over Native Hawaiian burial grounds stalled early construction, then problems with welding and cracks in the tracks appeared. Earlier this year, engineers realized that in some sections, the wheels were a half-inch narrower than the rails. Order new wheels? Tear up the tracks?
The launch dates slipped forward and the cost estimates crept upward — at latest count, $11.4 billion, with a target completion date of 2031.
Honolulu’s tribulations are far from a lone cautionary tale. To the contrary, they signal the kind of cost overruns, engineering challenges and political obstacles that have made it all but impossible to complete a major, multibillion-dollar infrastructure project in the United States on budget and on schedule over the past decade.
Okay sure, but that’s in Hawaii, where costs are higher for just about everything. Fair enough:
When California voters approved a bond in 2008 for a high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the project was supposed to cost $33 billion and be completed by 2020. The job is now projected to finish in 2033 for $100 billion, though those estimates are dated and there is an $80 billion funding gap.
Yeah, but that’s California. They always find ways to make stuff cost more. Sure:
Mr. Flyvbjerg, the Oxford professor, said infrastructure keeps getting more expensive at a time when many products, such as televisions, refrigerators and computers, get cheaper or better each year.
“Big infrastructure is becoming cost prohibitive,” he said, a problem he blames on institutional sclerosis at government agencies that keep repeating mistakes and choose infrastructure projects that are unlikely to succeed.
The mistakes, he said, include a lack of transparency to the public, flawed contracts that put government agencies at the mercy of contractors and a failure to attract enough private investment to bear some of the project’s risk.
The new infrastructure law, he said, does little to change the outlook.
Good luck selling this grab bag of waste, inefficiency and graft to the public, Democrats.