Why Does America’s Infrastructure Never Seem To Get Fixed?

There’s always some liberal going on about how important it is to fix America’s roads and bridges. That’s not exactly a shocker. After all, Americans might disagree about a lot of things that government does, but we seem to agree all the way across the spectrum that the government shouldn’t be allowing bridges to fall down or roads to crumble into dust.

Of course, that begs a basic question: Given the amount of money we spend, why hasn’t it been done already?

According to the government, we: could fix every bridge in America for 140 billion dollars.

The disrepair of U.S. surface-transportation systems cost businesses and households about $130 billion last year, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, based in Reston, Virginia. Of that, $32 billion is related to travel delays, it said in a report issued in July.

The average U.S. bridge is 43 years old , while the average useful life is generally about 50 years, according to the highway agency. The agency said in 2006 that it would cost $140 billion to immediately repair every deficient bridge in the U.S.

Yet, according to: Jim Geraghty, we’re laying that much cheddar – and more – down every year.

From the Congressional Budget Office last month: “From 2008 to 2011, total government spending on surface transportation infrastructure–highways, mass transit, and passenger rail–surpassed $200 billion a year. The federal government spent more than $50 billion a year–mostly in the form of grants to state and local entities, which then determined what projects to fund–and state and local governments spent more than $150 billion a year of their own funds. The private sector also invested in such infrastructure.”

…The U.S. Department of Transportation had a budget of $72 billion last year. Looking through the DOT budget, I see $441 million for “administrative expenses” in the Federal Highway Administration, $25 million in “administrative expenses” for the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Grants. According to Recovery.gov, as of July 20, $765.2 billion in stimulus funding has been paid out – meaning $74.8 billion is still not paid out, three years later. (The stimulus is scored at $840 billion under the CBO’s new figures, not the previously-discussed $787 billion figure.)

Is the problem really that America isn’t spending enough on its infrastructure, or that it doesn’t spend its already-gargantuan sums well enough?

Just looking at the raw numbers, it seems hard to understand why this is a long running problem. In fact, just looking at the numbers, there appears to be enough cash flow to solve the problem several times over.

So why doesn’t it get done?

Because the government is slow, stupid, and incredibly inefficient. That’s why.

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