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Opinion: America's Infrastructure Doesn't Need a Federal Spending 'Binge'

Despite alarming claims about the nation's roads and bridges, a column in the Chicago Tribune argues that the administration's proposed infrastructure spending doesn't match actual needs.
March 25, 2021, 11am PDT | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman argues that the United States doesn't actually need President Biden's "infrastructure binge." Biden "made gaudy promises to 'transform' our transportation networks, 'revolutionize' railroads and urban transit, and upgrade water systems, broadband, bike lanes, home weatherization and just about anything else you could think of," according to Chapman, writing before reports of the Biden administration developing a $3 trillion infrastructure plan broke.

Yet reports from the Reason Foundation and the Milken Institute Review show less-than-alarming numbers when it comes to the country's roads and bridges. The Reason Foundation's Annual Highway Report found that "the percentage of urban interstates rated in poor condition was lower in 2018 than a decade earlier," and, according to Brown University economist Matthew A. Turner, "investment in the interstate, in bridges and in public transit buses has matched or exceeded depreciation over the past generation."

Chapman argues that it should be up to states and localities to fund the infrastructure projects that affect them. "The great majority of infrastructure assets are owned by state and local governments, and it’s their constituents who would gain the most from resurfacing roads or bolstering bridges," he writes. "If they are going to reap the economic benefits of such investments, shouldn’t they be willing to pay for them?"

Others contend that many major infrastructure projects require federal oversight and funding, and that federally funded projects create well-paying, long-term jobs and economic opportunity. An October 2019 report from the House Budget Committee states that "federal support is especially important for larger-scale projects that affect multiple jurisdictions, require a broader source of revenues than is available to local communities, or create or sustain public goods that should be widely available to all."

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Published on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 in Chicago Tribune
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