The Wall Street Journal has a humdinger of a piece that beautifully illustrates why we can’t have nice things:
The most expensive train station in the U.S. is taking shape at the site of the former World Trade Center, a majestic marble-and-steel commuter hub that was seen by project boosters as a landmark to American hope and resilience.Instead, the terminal connecting New Jersey with downtown Manhattan has turned into a public-works embarrassment. Overtaking the project’s emotional resonance is a practical question: How could such a high-profile project fall eight years behind schedule and at least $2 billion over budget?An analysis of federal oversight reports viewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with current and former officials show a project sunk in a morass of politics and government. Those redesigning the World Trade Center—destroyed by terrorists in 2001—were besieged by demands from various agencies and officials, and “the answer was never, ‘No,’ ” said Christopher Ward, executive director from 2008 to 2011 of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the project’s builder.
This is a particularly egregious example of a typical American condition: local regulations, lawyers, government agencies, and developers are conspiring to create huge tangles that multiply costs which make projects of any serious scale difficult to accomplish. And of course add to that union wage scales and work rules that make everything more complicated and expensive than it needs to be, and the cost of all other mistakes is blown up even further.There is always lots of talk about how infrastructure spending would be useful—and in a different reality, it really would be. But as long as our processes are as screwed up as this, the country isn’t going to get the job done. Relatedly, we just can’t wait to see what the final bill for the megamonster high speed rail project in California turns into when all the “stakeholders” have finished feasting off it.