Everybody’s favorite transportation geek, Charles Komanoff, has a fascinating new paper out on the economics of New York’s new Tappan Zee Bridge. The old bridge is decrepit, and needs to be replaced — everybody agrees on that. And the replacement is now in the works, at a cost of $5.2 billion. But does it need to cost that much? Komanoff makes a strong case that it doesn’t.
Now here’s a pair of strange bedfellows: Robert Frank and PJ O’Rourke. They have a bipartisan op-ed in USA Today making the obvious and compelling case for infrastructure investment. Not grand schemes like new high-speed rail lines, but just basic maintenance on which the country has fallen massively behind:
I’m normally a big fan of Bond Girl, but today is obviously the official day when bankers talk their book with no particular logic. In this case, the proposal which has attracted her ire is the idea that part of the jobs bill will be paid for by capping itemized deductions for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and married couples earning more than $250,000. Basically, you can deduct away to your heart’s content — until your tax rate reaches 28%. At that point, you can’t deduct any more.
We know that infrastructure spending is a good way of creating jobs. But what kind of infrastructure spending? Heidi Gerrett-Peltier looked at pedestrian, bicycle, and road projects in Anchorage, Austin, Baltimore, Bloomington, Concord, Eugene, Houston, Lexington, Madison, Santa Cruz, and Seattle — and came to a pretty clear conclusion:
The problem with talking about federal infrastructure expenditures as “investments” is that someone like Dick Durbin is likely to take the term literally. He’s now introduced legislation which says that any time a state or city wants to privatize a transportation asset, it has to repay the federal government first. So if the government sunk a few hundred million dollars into a highway project, for instance, and then the state decided it wanted to sell off the right to collect tolls on that highway, then the toll operator or the state would first have to repay all the money that the feds spent.
It doesn’t matter whether you fly private or whether you fly commercial: you still have to fly from an airport. Which clearly annoys the Obama administration’s top plutocrat, Larry Summers. Justin Fox was in Washington on Tuesday to hear Summers give a speech on the inadequacies of US infrastructure. And he came up with a truly classic example to make his point:
After putting up a slightly hurried blog entry yesterday, I’ve spent a large part of this afternoon doing a deep dive into the sale of the license to run Chicago’s parking meters: many thank to the Parking Ticket Geek and Daniel Strauss of Gapers Block for prompting me to revisit the issue.