Upgrading America


Surowiecki wants more investment in infrastructure:

[T]he U.S., as a rule, tends to underinvest in public infrastructure. We’ve been skimping on maintenance of roads and bridges for decades. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our infrastructure a D grade, and estimated that we’d need $2.2 trillion to bring it up to snuff. Our power grid is, by the standards of the developed world, shockingly unreliable. A study by three Carnegie Mellon professors in 2006 found that average annual power outages in the U.S. last four times as long as those in France and seven times as long as those in the Netherlands. (The past two years’ data would likely be even worse.) This isn’t because of a lack of resources—the U.S. is the world’s biggest economy. But, though we may have the coolest twenty-first-century technology in our homes, we’re stuck with mid-twentieth-century roads and wires.

A recent Third Way report (pdf), which provides the chart above on federal project overruns, also encourages infrastructure improvements. A qualifier:

Democrats must accept that past cost overruns damage the public perception of capital projects. In a 2007 report of 27,000 U.S. federal government funded construction projects completed between 2001 and 2005, researchers found that 82% of projects with a price tag above $5 million ran over budget—and 30% ran at least 10% over budget. To turn this around and show that government can deliver on time and on budget, the Obama Administration has embraced sweeping reforms to prevent cost overruns—changes that, according to the Government Accountability Office, have brought many highway and capital projects in under budget. 93 Democrats must strongly support continued reforms, including those that ensure that projects are awarded for economic reasons, not constituent reasons