Updated: Strong Towns: Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Would 'Make our Infrastructure Crisis Worse'

To some, the agreement promises too much funding for traditional infrastructure programs rather than 'adaptations and innovations.'

2 minute read

July 12, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Birds Eye View of the George Washington Bridge

George Pankewytch / flickr

[Updated July 20, 2021.]

Strong Towns' Charles Marohn argues that the proposals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework will "make our infrastructure crisis worse." According to Marohn, "[s]hoveling unprecedented levels of funding into current programs prior to any serious work on reform is a terrible idea, regardless of who proposes it."

Assessing the funding outlined in the bipartisan compromise, Marohn writes: 

While $5 million for active transportation sounds nice, you’ll find $4.2 billion for trunk highways in the bill. If the $5 million for Safe Routes for School gets you excited, perhaps you won’t mind the $1.7 billion for county state aid highways. That $57.5 million in bus rapid transit seems really progressive until it is compared to the $430 million being spent on municipal state aid routes (a program to essentially turn local streets into highways). Nearly half a billion dollars is going to the Department of Public Safety, with $226 million of that just for patrolling highways. We’re going to spend more in two weeks on highway patrols than we will spend in two years in the active transportation account.

Marohn proposes that "[o]ur top-down infrastructure programs need to shift to support maintenance, not expansion, and make room for the bottom-up adaptations and innovations needed to drive gains in productivity." Moreover: "[w]e should not be cheering on a bi-partisan consensus based on some simulacrum of reform while an overwhelming amount of spending is going to programs that are making us weaker as a country, as cities, and as neighborhoods."

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