Budget goblins needlessly scare off infrastructure spending
Tight state budgets prompt some politicians, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to cancel or put off infrastructure investments in tunnels, roads, and rail. That's shortsighted.
Today, Swiss drilling crews broke through the last bit of rock to create the world’s longest rail tunnel. When completed in 2017, the route will cut the four-hour train ride from Zurich, Switzerland, to Milan, Italy, by an hour, helping to relieve Europe’s congested highways.Skip to next paragraph
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Last week, New Jersey’s governor canceled a rail tunnel that would carry commuters under the Hudson River to Manhattan. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the United States, more so than many European nations. The tunnel has been 20 years in the planning, and ground has broken on the project.
But Republican Gov. Chris Christie says the state can’t afford the expected cost overruns, even though the tunnel is being called the most important current public works project in America.
The difference between the Swiss and New Jersey examples is this: One shows vision and a commitment to invest in the future, while the other shows shortsightedness.
Cost overruns are a legitimate concern, as are strained state budgets all over America. But politicians should see these financial constraints as a challenge to be overcome, not an excuse to stop building or repairing infrastructure that’s vital to America’s commerce, high standard of living, and even national security.
Sadly, some politicians are being frightened by the economic goblins of today and are running away from important infrastructure investments.
In Pennsylvania, the state legislature is ducking a plan by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell to raise $1 billion in driver’s license, registration, and vehicle fees – as well as oil company taxes – to fund transportation infrastructure. Pennsylvania really needs $3.5 billion, according to a recent study.
In California, Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor, wants to delay the state’s bullet-train project to connect San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities. It’s financed in part by federal stimulus money from the Recovery Act.