At the risk of creating the impression that I’m just another of the hand-wringing masses obsessed with second guessing the guy who isn’t even president yet and how he may or may not be already failing to live up to his own “change” hype, I couldn’t stop myself from following up my two previous posts with a mention of the latest regarding the infrastructure stimulus:

“In proposing a stimulus plan that could total as much as $1 trillion, Obama has promised a new federal infrastructure program that would dwarf President Dwight Eisenhower’s interstate highway system that began in 1956.

The concern is that because the States have control over where the money is spent, the stimulus plan could end up looking all too much like the interstate highway system.  That is, we’ll spend most of the money abetting car culture, rather than aggressively embarking on the massive retooling of transportation infrastructure that needs to start immediately, if not sooner.

What L.M. wrote in 1958:

“When the American people, through their Congress, voted last year for a twenty-six billion dollar highway program, the most charitable thing to assume about this action is that they hadn’t the faintest notion of what they were doing. Within the next fifteen years they will doubtless find out; but by that time it will be too late to correct all the damage to our cities and our countryside, to say nothing of the efficient organization of industry and transportation, that this ill-conceived and absurdly unbalanced program will have wrought.”


13 Responses to “Obamasscity”

  1. Dan Staley

    Dan’l, I agree, but we have sunk costs and sunk systems right now that can’t be eliminated overnight; trouble is, these systems are nearing the end of their life-cycle, and the structures are not (another sunk cost).

    Solve this, and you’ll be bigger’n Mumford and richer than the Astors when you build your own town and name it after yourself (Bertoletia? Bertoleton?).

  2. Matt the Engineer

    Let the roads crumble. Close the bridges. Tear down the overpasses.

    But only after we build up rail to global standards.

  3. Matt the Engineer

    Or even better: Want shovel-ready infrastructure? Then fix the bridges, but convert center lanes of interstates to rail.

  4. Dan Staley

    Trucks just go away, Matt? How will rail deliver food to grocery stores?

  5. Josh Mahar

    @4: Easy Dan, we use the wonderful power of people and just have big old central markets where everyone picks up their goods and walks/bikes/wagons them home.

  6. joshuadf

    Deliveries without interstates and highways would work just fine, the same way they do in most of the world.

  7. Matt the Engineer

    Trucking is a terrible idea. Let’s drag goods around the country in big non-aerodynamic boxes on rubber wheels pulled by inefficient diesel-burning engines. Trucks can be used for local deliveries, if at all.

    It’s a complete failure of our system that we drive the things across the country, when dozens (hundreds?) of the things can be trained together on tracks, operated by only a few people and a single efficient engine (diesel electrics are hybrids). Maybe even some day an electric motor, as is used in most of the world.

    In Shanghai there’s a wonderful giant supermarket called the Metro, that lives at the end of the metro line. There’s probably a train line there too.

  8. dan bertolet

    Like MTE said, rail. And the question we have to ask ourselves is, do we even have the resources, in the sunset of the oil age, to keep fixing the highways until a comprehensive rail system is in place, and also pay for that new rail system? It may be that we’ll have to choose one or the other, and in the long run we’d be better off letting the freeways crumble. Of course that would mean asking people to exchange short term pain for long term gain, and that goes against human nature.

  9. Spencer

    Dan and Matt,

    I think you are getting toward the solution I am thinking about…but rail is not as much in the equation.

    We need a solution that looks locally for it’s products. As you both are pointing out; we can not exist for much longer on the current way we do things. Shortening the distance our goods and services need to be consumed will lessen first our use of solid fuels and our reliance on other market forces. It will come with limits to variation of goods and services available to us but will open up the uniqueness and novelty of goods and services available as we travel to other places.


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