Now it’s Biden’s turn to schedule ‘Infrastructure Week’

The great difficulty of infrastructure projects isn’t just getting the politics right. It’s that the technical design details matter enormously, and tradeoffs are difficult to avoid. Highways pose fewer technical challenges of network design, and the U.S. is consequently better at building them. But America has been building highways for a long time, which means that the highest-value routes were all built long ago. Incremental investment in highways now means marginal, sprawl-inducing extensions. America would get more value from maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. But federal funding flows through state transportation departments, and governors like to cut ribbons on new roads, bridges and the like. A moderate increase in the pace at which potholes get filled doesn’t make for a good photo op. Perhaps an amazing infrastructure proposal of some kind will emerge. Precisely because U.S. transportation spending is so troubled, there is ample room for reform, and money can be the tool that makes reform possible.

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