If you want to understand why liberalism doesn’t work very well anymore, travel up the Hudson River a few miles from New York.
Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large sodas isn’t the only thing inciting New Yorkers this week. Controversy is heating up over a bridge that maybe never should have been built.
The longstanding plan to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge—a massive, crumbling monstrosity inexplicably built at the widest point of the Hudson River—will be one of the most expensive construction projects the state has ever undertaken. As the New York Times reports, the bridge has a projected cost of $5.2 billion dollars:
The plan is to replace the current seven-lane bridge with either one or two structures projected to have 15 lanes — 8 for traffic, as well as shoulders and breakdown lanes, a lane for pedestrians and bicyclists and space for designated bus lanes. It would be the first major bridge built in the New York City area since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in 1964.
Many environmentalists oppose the plan due to the environmental damage from the massive dredging operation that is necessary to build a new bridge. Other environmentalists support the bridge, but claim that a wider bridge without room for public transit would increase sprawl and lead to a higher carbon output. Local politicians and planning associations, meanwhile, have added their own lists of concerns to the pile.
These kinds of complaints are unfortunately all too typical of construction projects today. There are so many controversies, so many lawsuits, and so many competing interests that negotiations take an enormous amount of time and money. The time between planning a project and actually carrying it out stretches into decades. To those who bemoan the lack of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects in America: this is why.
Even if you are a Keynesian and believe that deficit spending helps the economy to grow, infrastructure projects won’t do the trick anymore. By the time you’re actually actually able to get the project off the ground, the recession has been over for years.
And the problem runs deeper than infrastructure. Our bureaucratic institutions are ponderously slow. We need new structured interactions between laws, courts, and agencies that can process information and make decisions in real time — rather than putting everything in bureaucratic limbo for decades.
Slow governmental process is a facet of the blue social model and the progressive era civil service bureaucracies and slow procedures that model has historically entailed. And the high costs associated with it are among the reasons that the model is dying.