Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The horrifying stupidity continues................

Congress turning a D+ on infrastructure into an F
Refusing to spend money on roads and bridges will cost jobs and prosperity

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Of all the dumb things done in the name of fiscal restraint over the past five years, surely the dumbest was the decision by our government to slash its investments in the future.
We know that the deplorable state of our roads, bridges, ports, airports, schools, hospitals, rail lines, levees, canals, power and communications networks, drinking water and waste systems cries out for more investment in the infrastructure that our economy depends on.
That’s the point President Barack Obama was making on Wednesday, when he stood at New York’s crumbling Tappan Zee Bridge and pleaded for more infrastructure spending.
“We shouldn’t watch the top-rated airports and seaports or the fastest rail lines or fastest Internet networks get built somewhere else,” Obama said. “They need to be built right here in New York, right here in the United States. First-class infrastructure attracts first-class jobs.”
But instead of investing more, we’re doing less. Balancing budgets today has become more important than building the economy of tomorrow.
America earned a D+ on its last infrastructure report card, and our political leaders seem determined to turn that grade into a solid F.
Public investments have dropped precipitously since 2009, and reached a new low in the first three months of 2014, when net investment by federal, state and local governments fell to the lowest level in 65 years, just 0.5% of gross domestic product.

I’m focusing here on net investment, rather than on the more widely reported gross investment figures, which show a robust rebound from recession lows. Why look at net instead of gross? Because we have to pay attention to the wear and tear on our existing infrastructure, which is a much bigger deal that you’d expect: Depreciation of our public infrastructure amounts to $500 billion a year. We need to invest that much just to avoid falling behind.

In the first three months of this year, net investment by the federal government actually turned negative, which means the infrastructure wore out faster than it was being replaced.
And it’s about to get worse. As usual in Washington these days, misguided concerns about the budget are getting in the way of solving problems we all agree must be solved. Everyone agrees that we must spend more on our transportation and other vital public utilities, but lawmakers can’t agree on how it should be paid for.
The Highway Trust Fund is a major source of funding for highway investment, but its finances are in doubt. The White House warns that a disruption in the trust fund could cost 700,000 jobs.
Raising the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents would be an obvious solution (it hasn’t been increased since 1993), but there’s little appetite in Washington for raising any tax, even one that so directly benefits the people who pay it. Instead, we’re hearing talk about new user fees, perhaps via tolls or a new vehicle fee based on miles driven.
For obvious political reasons, stealth taxes are preferred.
Meanwhile, the authorization for transportation investment expires at the end of September, and it’s uncertain what Congress will do. The issue of funding is so contentious that the leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, California Democrat Barbara Boxer and Louisiana Republican David Vitter, have put forth a bill that doesn’t address financing at all, punting that question to the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.

One possible solution that could break the political gridlock is for the private sector to invest in public infrastructure, either as passive investors or as more active participants. There’s even one proposal to allow multinational companies to repatriate some of the cash that’s locked up in overseas tax shelters by investing in public infrastructure bonds, similar to the successful Build America Bonds from the stimulus bill.
These ideas sound appealing, but the devil is in the details. We don’t want to give away the national patrimony.
We won’t be able to invest what we need to until we figure out the financing, but Washington seems to lose its mind whenever the subject of money comes up. That’s short-sighted, because infrastructure pays for itself over time. Unfortunately for America, time is running out.

Every family, every community, and every business needs infrastructure to thrive.

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure depicts  the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report  card—assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement.
The 2013 Report Card grades show we have a significant backlog of overdue maintenance across our  infrastructure systems, a pressing need for modernization, and an immense opportunity to create reliable,  long-term funding, but they also show that we can improve the current condition of our nation’s  infrastructure — when investments are made and projects move forward, the grades rise.

Infrastructure Grades for 2013

Estimated 5-Year Investment Needs in Billions of Dollars 2009

Category5-Year Need (Billions)Estimated Actual Spending*American Recover and Reinvestment Act (P.L. III-005)Five-year Investment Shortfall
Drinking Water and Wastewater2551406.4(108.6)
Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste7732.51.1(43.4)
Inland Waterways50254.475(20.5)
Public Parks and Recreation85360.835(48.17)
Roads and Bridges
Discretionary grants for surface transportation
 2.122 trillion***903 billion71.76 billion(1.176 trillion)
 Total Need**** $2.2 trillion 
* 5 year spending estimate based on the most recent available
spending at all levels of government and not indexed for inflation
** The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $53.6 billion
for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for education, as of press time,
it was not known how much would be spent on school infrastructure.
*** Not adjusted for inflation
**** Assumes 3% annual inflation

Highway Trust Fund Insolvency: 30 Days and Counting

May 1, 2015
                There has been much discussion on Capitol Hill and throughout the nation about increasing funding for infrastructure. From highways to transit to ports, our nation depends on infrastructure to thrive. Though federal lawmakers are once again looking toward a short-term funding patch for the beleaguered Highway Trust Fund, ASCE continues to advocate for a long-term, sustainable funding solution. There have been several bills proposed by legislators in the past few months. The Update Act and Repatriation bill are two proposals that have garnered considerable media attention. In USA Today, Rep. Paul Ryan lauded the Repatriation bill, aimed at lowering the tax rate on overseas profits earned by U.S. corporations and using the tax revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, as part of a permanent reform going from a worldwide system to a “more internationally competitive exemption system.” ASCE supports these bills to fund surface transportation; however neither proposal has gained significant traction or bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill. According to a recent poll by Mineta Transportation Institute, 71 percent of voters would be willing to pay a dime more than the current 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax if the money is spent on “projects to maintain streets, roads and highways.” In contrast to funding patches, raising the federal gas tax would be a stable source of direct funding for transportation infrastructure. While things at the federal level seem to have stalled, in Michigan voters will soon vote on Proposition 1, which would increase the state sales tax by 1 percent to generate around $1.2 billion a year for roads and at least $107 million annually for public transit and passenger rail. These state and federal propositions are steps in the right direction for restoring our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Given the Highway Trust Fund’s impending insolvency, it is more critical than ever that Congress work together to pass legislation to provide a sustainable, long-term funding solution.

Flat Funding is Flat Outrageous

May 7, 2015
As the deadline to reauthorize the federal surface transportation bill nears, the measure of success for many involved seems to be maintaining the status quo. Last week, leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives began touting “flat funding” as an accomplishment that Congress must work to achieve. But it’s flat out not. Here are some of the things that will happen if Congress simply continues the status quo over the next few years, from ASCE’s economic study on transportation: It will cost each American family’s budget $1,060 every year through at least 2020 America will lose more than 876,000 jobs by 2020 234,000 jobs will force workers to take paycuts in 2020 S. exports will drop by $28 billion in total by 2020 America’s GDP will underperform by $897 billion in total by 2020 Short-changing transportation has a devastating ripple effect on our economy. With so much at stake, increasing our investment into transportation by fixing the Highway Trust Fund is the best choice for all Americans. The benefits of growing the surface transportation program go far beyond protecting those parts of the economy noted above. By increasing investment, we can start modernizing our transportation network so that it’s something Americans can again be proud of. Fewer potholes, less congestion, fewer deficient bridges, fewer off-loaded trains. Safer commutes, more time to spend with your family, better transit options.

A multiyear bill that continues the same amount of funding we’ve had since 2005 through SAFETEA-Lu is the opposite of aspiration. It will not help improve our low Report Card grades for surface transportation, and will do little to strengthen the economy. However, there is a way to not only fill the funding hole of the Highway Trust Fund but also grow the system. By increasing the federal gas tax, we can start investing in the projects America needs to have in place in order to continue to compete globally in the21st century. Every state has dozens of new construction projects that they would like to make a reality if they only had increased investment from all levels of government. Here’s our chance.

To fill the current federal funding gap and grow the federal Highway Trust Fund to address current documented needs, Congress should raise the gas tax by at least 20 cents. This would be the first increase since 1993, and the bump would recoup what has been lost due to inflation and increase funding. For the average driver, it will cost about $187 more a year*. In contrast, right now each motorist is paying $324 a year in additional repairs and operating costs. In addition, Americans spend an average 34 hours a year stuck in traffic, costing the U.S. economy $101 billion in wasted fuel and lost time annually. It’s a savings for your wallet by staying out of the auto mechanic shop. It’s an even bigger savings as it protects that $1,060 mentioned above. There is a lot at stake if we merely continue with the same level of funding of the past 10 years for the next five. It will hurt your personal finances, hurt our already aging transportation system and do little to benefit our economy. Let’s increase our investment so that Congress truly fixes the Trust Fund in a way that allows us to modernize our transportation system.


  1. Seems the republican jobs plan is a negative jobs growth.

  2. Raise taxes, spend more money, ,,what happened to those shovel ready stimulus projects?

    Obama didn't build that.

  3. Old worn out clichés William. First class infrastructure brings first class jobs. Obviously you didn't read the article so you throw out your worn out clichés. We want to be exceptional well guess what, many nations in the world are leaving us in the dust on infrastructure. Of course when the horrifying stupidity takes us back 100 years I guess horse and buggy roads are all we will need.

  4. The recovery is stymied when fiscal policy and monetary policy are going in opposite directions.

  5. It would seem government cannot spend money wisely as proven again by the debacle in Aurora Colorado. The sad part is they don't care, it's not their money. Infrastructure projects should only be done by the states.

    Infrastructure projects that missed.
    The U.S. Forest Service Replaces The Windows in a Visitor Center That Was Closed in 2007 (Amboy, WA) for $554,763
    Summertime Blues

    Despite having no plans to reopen a shuttered visitor center at Mount St. Helens in Washington state, the U.S. Forest Service is spending more than $554,000 to replace its windows. One government official likened it to keeping a vacant house in good repair,” while another official noted that there is hope to find some purpose for the building in the future, whether as a hotel, science camp or restaurant. Despite those efforts, there are no current plans to use the empty space.

    Spending $11.5 million in 1993, the Forest Service opened the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center to provide visitors to Mount St. Helens a “sweeping view of the volcano”4 through the center’s soaring windows. In 2007, however, the Forest Service closed down the visitor center after just 14 years in operation.

    A rail extension is to be built to get to professional sports stadiums and a casino (Pittsburgh, PA) for $62 million

    In February 2009, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell called Pittsburgh’s North Shore Connector “a tragic mistake,” leaving taxpayers wondering why the project recently received a $62.5 million windfall from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project would allow the Port Authority of Allegheny County to extend the city’s light rail under the Allegheny River to the new Rivers Casino, as well as to its two professional sports arenas, PNC Park (home of the Pirates) and Heinz Field (home of the Steelers). Unfortunately, the North Shore Connector has been plagued with problems since its inception, making it seem in this case that federal officials are throwing good money after bad.

    An abandoned train station is to be converted into a Museum in Glassboro, NJ) for $1.2 million

    Taxpayers may not be happy to learn that they are paying for one broken down train station twice. The Glassboro train station was built in 1860 and closed in 1971.45 Unused for nearly 40 years, it now sits boarded up and riddled with graffiti. In 2002, the Borough of Glassboro, New Jersey received nearly a quarter of a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation to purchase the train station from Conrail. At that time, officials hoped to incorporate the station into the regional NJ Transit system. But those plans fell through, and since then local officials have been looking for a way to fund renovations to put the building to some use.

    A town replaces for $89,298 new sidewalks with newer sidewalks that lead to a ditch (Boynton, OK)

    People around Boynton, Oklahoma were left scratching their heads after the town was awarded nearly $90,00096 to replace a quarter-mile stretch of sidewalk that was replaced only five years ago.

    One longtime resident of Boynton, Ray Allen, said the project “had been the talk of the town recently, and none of it positive,” because it is “100 percent a waste of money.” Another resident, Mike Lance, noted that “the best indication of the absurdity of the project is what the contractor did with a section of sidewalk at the north end of town – one that fronts no homes or businesses, and leads directly into a ditch.” Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation defended the project as necessary to bring the sidewalk into conformity with federal guidelines.

    Need more examples of government waste???????

    1. Not to mention, 18.3 trillion and growing larger every day.

  6. There would be plenty of money for roads and bridges if the money was spent on just roads and bridges. Instead it is spent on stupid shit like public transportation and bike paths. If your city wants subsidized buses and bike paths, pay for it yourself. The gas tax is for roads and bridges..........

    1. Our community has great roads and sections are repaired every year. It doesn't take Federal dollars but local dollars. We have a 40 buck fee per vehicle for bridge repair. We also have bike paths paid for by communities.

      We have a joke called light rail. It's called light rail as it carries few people and is costly. There's a movement underway to shut it down as it benefits few and does little for congestion on the roads. Cost of a 1 way ticket, 5 bucks, actual cost 30 bucks to the taxpayer. Construction subsidized by Sammy.

    2. I am glad Gotta brought up bike paths. Here in the Raleigh area we have one of the best urban greenway systems in the nation. All built by the city through parks and rec bonds. One trail is 33.5 miles long and crosses one country road that goes to a water treatment plant, otherwise it is totally off the beaten path. There are of course others that spur off. I don't know what gotta has against recreational amenities but they do bring jobs and people to a locality. But this brings me back to people taking advantage of government work. When I started using the trail system in my recover from a heart problem there was a incomplete one mile stretch that was being built by the Fred Smith development company. Fred Smith is a past state senator. I first met Fred Smith years ago when my son was in a speech contest at the soil and water conservation district. We attended a dinner at which the three finalists gave their speeches. Fred was there as a state senator, and guess what the SOB slept through the kids speeches which were all very good. anyway back to my point . When it was completed I got on my bike and rode up to this new section. I was appalled at the cost of what was done. this roughly one mile was completed at a cost of 1.4 million dollars. as I rode I felt that Fred Smith ought to be ashamed of what he charged. It's not that the trail was poorly constructed it just wasn't 1.4 million dollars worth. He hosed the public. I think maybe the best thing the government could do is employ people to do a cost estimate of a project so that they have some idea of the cost before they let out bid contracts. Maybe everything wouldn't be so overpriced.
      Gotta if you see no value in recreational amenities then you obviously never been in a situation where you used such things to improve yourself. I for one am fortunate and glad that I live in a place where the government does care enough to provide these type things for the citizens. But I bet you would have no qualms over building a public stadium with tax dollars for a private franchise to play a sport in your community or they will leave do you.

    3. To louman it doesn't matter if it is done locally or federally, governments are being hosed by those who do work for them. Greed it's the American way. Government work is seen as easy money regardless of who is paying.

    4. Rick

      We do not need to accept this as the norm.

      Perhaps it's time for change.

    5. Louman it's been done to the people and our government for a couple hundred years. It is time to change but changing what the government provides isn't necessarily the answer. Changing the providers might be. I guess you would have everything privatized so that it cost a fee everytime I want to ride a bike on a greenway. What the fuck is the difference it all costs.

    6. Of course your right Rick.

      It's not government and the way they do business, it's businesses fault. Doesn't matter business charges government more because of the way government does business, Government regulations, slow pays, it's never a corrupt broken governments problem but the providers.

      You would claim government was right if they shit on you lawn and claim it was good because it was fertilizer.

      And we do need change. People in this country like you need to change and not accept broken government.

    7. If it doesn't work, it's broken

      Barack Obama.

    8. Louman it is a proven fact that shit is great fertilizer. Louman do you not understand greed and dishonesty or do you just accept it because that's the way we are as humans. Why can't a company work as hard and economically for the government as they would you and me. Same reason that a spoon for the restaurant costs twice as much as the same spoon bought for my home. They vendor knows the corporate world has it and will pay it. The government has it and will pay it so they are overcharged by the greedy day after day after day. What's wrong Louman with one cost structure regardless of where you are selling an item.

    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    10. Well Rick if your beloved government would pay their bills on time, not generate massive change orders, not tell contractors what they must pay, maybe the government would get the same cost that business gets.

      I walk away from any and all government projects as they are not worth the slow pay. The premium I would charge them isn't worth the hassle.

      While working for Federal Services at a telecom, Y2K loomed and the communication systems for most military bases needed to be upgraded to handle the date change. The cost 1-2 million dollars per site. I worked with 2 separate sites and engineered replacement systems to meet their needs. The advantage, all new equipment, 1 year warranty on all equipment and the best part, 750K per site. Both site managers loved the price and the savings. Both called back and said they had to spend the 1-2 million as the money was in an upgrade budget and could only be spent for upgrades not replacement.

      Your government at work. SPENDDDDDDD.