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Why Are Infrastructure Projects So Slow These Days?
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One of the odder aspects of modern life is that it takes forever to build infrastructure. For example, the 2.7 mile paved walking path around the beautiful Lake Hollywood reservoir (which is under the famous Hollywood Sign), was washed out in places during the 2005 rains. The loop finally reopened in 2013, over eight years later.
In contrast, the sizable Mulholland Dam that created the reservoir in the 1920s was built in either 1.5 years (according to the bronze plaque on the dam) or 2.5 years (according to Wikipedia). In either case, it took at least five years less time to build the dam from scratch in the 1920s than to fix the road around the reservoir in the 2000s and 2010s.
On the other hand, as I was reading up on this dam, I saw that William Mulholland, Los Angeles’s titanic chief water engineer, followed up his Hollywood dam with his nearly identical St. Francis dam out in the northern exurbs, which also built in only a couple of years.
Unfortunately, the St. Francis dam collapsed in 1928, killing approximately 600 people. (In Chinatown, the depressed water engineer Hollis Mulwray is vaguely based on Mulholland post-St. Francis dam disaster.)
So, in the 1930s, Los Angeles went back and pushed a huge amount of dirt in front of the Hollywood version of the dam to keep from losing Hollywood. I hadn’t realized how tall the dam is under all the dirt until seeing this photo of the safety project from a 1934 Popular Science:
So, I don’t know. Maybe we have good reasons for doing things more slowly now?
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    American infrastructure also costs 5x to 10x as much as in other first world countries. Spain and Korea are among the most cost effective.

    http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/comparative-subway-construction-costs-revised/

    The usual suspects for our failure to build well are corruption, counterproductive anti-corruption measures, special favors for certain kinds of contractors, gold plating projects instead of choosing cost effective methods, the power of labor interests, the lack of interest of middle class infrastructure users, and more.

    Mostly I believe that electing smart politicians who care about infrastructure is the key. When the elites have citizens constantly at each other's throats over social issues, bread and butter politics doesn't have to get done to win elections.

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  2. They built the Empire State Building in what, 9 months? It's still standing.

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  3. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    More paperwork, some pointless, some not.

    I think the proportion of pointless goes up every year as all the really important stuff to check was figured out long ago so what gets added to the list now is mostly chaff.

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  4. 1) Unions

    2) Minority & women contractor demonstrations & lawsuits/litigation

    3) Multiple environmental impact studies (some of whose findings impose added costs, as when the project is forced to incorporate additional elements or features to protect species, watersheds, habitats, &c.)

    4) Politics (mutual back-scratching)

    5) Extended raw material, fabricated material, & subassembly leadtimes (exacerbated when, for instance, steel has to be fabricated in China instead of in Pittsburgh or Gary, and then be shipped by sea to the project site)

    6) Public objection; pressure group objection

    7) Bidding wars/competition & politicians finagling

    8) Political inertia (our elect do not want to do, order, or back any huge project that could alienate a needed voter bloc)

    9) EPA-mandated detox of existing structure or land at project site

    10) Political or criminal investigations into bidding, contract-awarding procedures

    11) Battles over funding

    12) Finger-pointing & investigations when project goes awry or is delayed

    13) Politicians, government agencies, contractors, unions milking a project for every last million bucks they can squeeze from it by prolonging it

    14) The Army Corps of Engineers throwing its two cents in: guaranteed to hamstring or kill a project and drive up costs

    15) Homeland Security considerations; security features built-in, add to costs and prolong construction

    16) Bickering over and horse-trading among project element oversight/cognizance (between designer & government agencies, between contractors, between contractors & government agencies or government project workers)

    18) Eminent domain litigation

    19) Real estate acquisition from government ownership, commercial ownership, private ownership

    20) Oversupply of labor creates no urgency to employ project workforce

    21) Insurance coverage negotiations

    22) And don't forget: RACISM! And GLOBAL WARMING! And GOD FORBID THE DESIGN OR SITE INSULTS MOSLEMS!

    And all of those items are just off the top of my head. There are likely yet more considerations, stumbling blocks, dilatory causes.

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  5. Bjdubbs says:

    The DC Silver Line (connecting Dulles through Tysons Corner to inner VA suburbs) has hit a big snag:

    "Among the problems that must be fixed before the first phase of Metro’s new $5.6 billion Silver Line is completed: Hundreds of speakers at the five stations will have to be torn out and replaced because they don’t meet fire code. And cable that allows radio communication inside a tunnel in Tysons Corner will have to be replaced because it also does not meet code requirements."

    All of these stations are above ground and built out of stone, so the idea of speakers spontaneously catching fire and posing a fire hazard is a little ridiculous. But apparently nobody ever calculates the cost/benefit and figures that new speakers aren't worth it.

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  6. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    I suspect it is simply bureaucratic inertia. You can write the same article about military developments in the past (say, WWII) compared to today.

    This very issue struck me during the War in Iraq with regards to more mine-resistant vehicles. It was clear very early that HMMV's weren't very good at not being blown up by mines. It took the better part of the decade of the war to develop the MRAP (?)- a big, heavy armored vehicle that was designed to protect against mines (with a V-shaped bottom to diffuse the blast, as one example).

    Compare that to the turnaround for any number of weapons during WWII (aircraft carriers, fighters, better tanks, and so on). WWII really only lasted (for the US) 3 1/2 years, so we were able to develop several generations of weapons at a rate of probably 1 per year. (for example: tanks had several iterations, from desert war Grants to European war Shermans to late war Pershings. A similar example could be made of fighters and bombers, or even tank destroyers, artillery pieces, and armored cars as well as ships).

    This has nothing to do with historically significant developments like the atom bomb (or, from another era, the race to the moon). Just normal development of technology.

    So what causes bureaucratic inertia?

    (the same slowdown does not appear to be affecting computer/information technology-performed in the private sector)

    anonymousse

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  7. During WWII, American torpedoes were scandalously bad, but they did get most of the problems fixed in under two years, which seems instantaneous by peacetime standards.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_14_torpedo

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  8. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    The costs of constructing subways seem to have inflated most excessively. Today a single underground rail line in most major cities costs billions. How could subway systems like London's or Paris's be built today?

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  9. J says: • Website

    AA's list above is correct but far from exhaustive.

    - Changes ("improvements") in engineering safety regulations

    - Workers safety regulation

    - permitting (submittals to dozens of regulators and follow up to get their agreements)

    - easy and free access to the project-killing judicial system

    - excessive power of "green" organizations (based on a general anti-establishment state of mind of the American public)

    In general, a change of the center of gravity toward total, absolute, ideal safety.

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  10. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    The way to enter Galt's Gulch is via the Tacoma Narrow Bridge.

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  11. Dearieme says:

    When the French showed how quickly they could build high speed railway lines, a Briton – used to interminable public enquiries – asked how it was done.

    "When you want to drain the swamp, you do not consult the frogs" was the reply. That certainly cheered up the British with its unintended joke.

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  12. Somewhere around 100 men died during the building of the Hoover Dam, which took 5 years. That's one man every 18 days. Can you imagine, today, if more than once a month there were an article in the newspaper about yet another death at the big construction project down the road? We don't like that level of risk in our wars these days, let alone on building projects. All that safety costs time and money, and that's only one thing that's changed, as others have pointed out.

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  13. Sure, bureaucracy and featherbedding are some of the problem, but more of the reason is we have decided to be more careful now. The personal and professional costs of a mistake like Mulholland's dam disaster have only gone up, but also we both expanded the categories of risk we consider when doing major projects, and what is considered "acceptable" risk.

    I work as a manufacturing engineer rather than a civil engineer, but I'm familiar with 5-10 year design cycles. I'm not only expected to make a product that works, it needs to not only keep the customers safe, but the people who work for me making it. I need to make sure the medical device I design is bio-compatible. I need to make sure handle of the device is comfortable in the surgeon's hands. I need to make sure the manufacturing process is ergonomically friendly to the expected variation in human body sizes. Oh yeah, and you need to make it lean enough to make money. The body of knowledge I have to integrate is way more complicated now.

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  14. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Boring fact, Russia has the highest cost for road building. Corruption but environment too.

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  15. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Affordable Housing

    Prior to 1950, affordable housing consisted of walk-up apartments built above ground-floor retail space. This model was used from Manhattan to the Main Street in small Midwestern towns with much success. The Americans with Disabilities Act and decades of prior suburban building codes have killed this model and made all housing unaffordable for retirees and lower income Americans without subsidies.

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  16. bomag [AKA "Doombuggy"] says:

    bureaucratic inertia?

    (the same slowdown does not appear to be affecting computer/information technology-performed in the private sector)

    The private sector seems pretty nimble: Wal Mart can build a store for the price and time of a gov't coffee break. Classic farm tractors had long production runs. Newer ones are updated every few years. Well drilling technology moves quickly.

    Gov't work has slowed and gone into reverse. The Corps of Engineers seems like it is now in the business of removing dams.

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  17. Josh says:

    Another thing. Why, when we were supposedly poorer, before all of the miraculous economic growth did we bother to build decent-looking, stone-work overpasses rather than today's hideous slabs of concrete. It's a real downer how ugly everything is these days.

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  18. John Dudley says: • Website

    Acetech who have been one of the leading software development company in Delhi giving creative custom software development to meet interesting business challenges for the absolute most distinguished organizations and associations in the country.

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  19. JDG1980 says:

    The reflexive blaming of unions doesn't make any sense. Infrastructure projects in non-union states are still plagued by massive delays and cost overruns. Besides, we didn't seem to have these kind of problems in the 1950s when union density was at an all-time high in America.

    I think the best explanation is the one given by David Frum in How We Got Here. Basically (and I'm oversimplifying quite a bit here), he traces it to the rise in extreme individualism that started to take off in the 1970s. During the Progressive, New Deal, and WWII/post-WWII eras, majority rights were in and individualism was more subdued. The 1970s saw the rise of NIMBYism and environmentalism as tools to throw sand in the gears of infrastructure projects.

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  20. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Here's something amusing – The Beijing subway will have 2x the ridership of NYC's subway in the next couple of years (NYC just had a record-setting year in 2013). Check out the gif showing the growth of Beijing's subway here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Subway and you can see how fast it has grown

    NYC is also working on the 2nd avenue subway line – the first section (which is really just 4 stops) is expected to open 10 years after the project started.

    NYC is currently still working on a 3rd water tunnel (which is slated for completion in its 50th year in 2020) – not a typo, 50 YEARS.

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  21. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Perpetual construction, just like perpetual war, is profitable for certain interests.

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  22. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Bureaucracy seems to be like a gas that expands to fit the size of its container, where the container is the overall wealth of society. We grumble and put up with new regulations because we can basically afford them, but there's push-back when the special interest groups go too far.

    I'm an architect, and I spend an enormous amount of time complying with regulations that have tiny marginal effects on the safety and usability of buildings. We could build the Empire State Building quicker today if we operated in the same regulatory environment they had back then.

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  23. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    "The costs of constructing subways seem to have inflated most excessively. Today a single underground rail line in most major cities costs billions. How could subway systems like London's or Paris's be built today?"

    The Chinese have built giant subway systems in the last few years, larger than those in London, Paris or New York. All those skyscrapers in Dubai, including the tallest one on Earth, were also built shockingly fast. Big projects can still be done quickly, just not in the West.

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  24. Mr. Anon says:

    It's an indicator of a decadent, dying society, which is exactly what ours is.

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  25. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    "I'm an architect, and I spend an enormous amount of time complying with regulations that have tiny marginal effects on the safety and usability of buildings."

    Who lobbies for those regulations? Do bureaucrats do it for its own sake, or are your architect and engineering buddies lobbying for more work to come their way?

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2014/03/why-andres-duany-so-focused-making-lean-urbanism-thing/8635/

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  26. RS says:

    I think it was a few ten-thousands or something at the Panama Canal, mostly tropical infections. It was ~1900 so there was quinine for malaria (not necessarily fully effective to my knowledge), and nothing for anything else. I bet you didn't have to do much of a song & dance to get a job down there.

    > Somewhere around 100 men died during the building of the Hoover Dam, which took 5 years. That's one man every 18 days. Can you imagine, today, if more than once a month there were an article in the newspaper about yet another death at the big construction project down the road? We don't like that level of risk in our /wars/ these days

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  27. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Compare today's construction times with WWII, when the USA built countless tanks, planes, and ships in just a few years, and conducted war in 10,000 distant places, while supplying food and other needs to the millions of USA soldiers across the entire planet.

    Note also that it took us only ~ 4 y to win that war, but today we can't conquer a bunch of Middle Eastern goat herders after 15 yrs.

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  28. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    "Prior to 1950, affordable housing consisted of walk-up apartments built above ground-floor retail space. This model was used from Manhattan to the Main Street in small Midwestern towns with much success. The Americans with Disabilities Act and decades of prior suburban building codes have killed this model and made all housing unaffordable for retirees and lower income Americans without subsidies."

    I don't see how adding a ramp would do that.

    Read More
  29. Incoherent financing and planning processes, work rules requiring over-staffing, and no oversight of contractors are some of the big factors discussed here:

    http://theweek.com/article/index/257684/why-is-it-so-expensive-to-build-a-bridge-in-america

    Interesting, they point out that it is far cheaper to build projects in radically free-market societies (Singapore) and socialist Scandinavia.

    The article points to these as being faults of a low trust, opaque political culture.

    As others noted, labor costs are an easy excuse pointed to by the Chamber of Commerce types – the poor cost performance of the US vs. Europe or Japan/Korea is clear evidence of that. Labor problems are more likely to reflect restrictive work rules and low levels of training as opposed to high worker wages.

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  30. The Z Blog says: • Website

    The phrase "anarcho-tyranny" comes to mind. Anglofiles are not very good at big government to begin with and the American system is designed to hamstring the state. That means size and effectiveness are inversely proportional.

    Another explanation is what happens to software. The system can get so bloated and complex, the outputs seem almost random and wholly unrelated to inputs. The solution is to rip it out and start fresh.

    A third possibility, related to the first, is that bureaucracies are self-serving. The bigger they get, the more self-dealing you get. Unless building the bridge benefits the blob in some way, it completes the task reluctantly and without urgency.

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  31. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    It really is a downer. California public schools lead my list: so cheap it's hard to tell the "permanent" buildings from the pre-fabs.

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  32. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    well here in texas the work crews will just tear up things and leave them torn up for long periods of time, so I'd imagine that the projects take longer because the people working on them have figured out how to extract more money over time.

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  33. Hunsdon says:

    Anyone ever ridden on the Moscow Metro? It's pretty neat. I found it clean and efficient—a vastly better way to get around the city than surface roads when I was there in 1999. Plans were approved in 1932 and the first trains were running in 1935.

    Apparently the Soviets imported foreign technical specialists—Britons with experience on the London underground.

    Unexpected, jaw-dropping fact I learned? The general plan for the system was drawn up by . . . Lazar Kaganovich.

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  34. Joe Schmoe says: • Website

    IMO Anon 7:23 is right. The explanation is decadence.

    Shouldn't technology have dramatically DECREASED construction costs? It has decreased most other kinds of costs.

    Heavy equipment is much better today. Have you ever seen a picture of a steam shovel or a bulldozer from the 1930's? They are tiny — the size of a Honda Pilot. That's because they couldn't build bigger, more powerful equipment back then, they didn't have the technology.

    In the 1930's you probably needed 4 machines to do the work of just 1 modern piece of heavy equipment. That means you needed 4 machine operators, more than 4 times as many service calls and spare parts (1930's equipment is much less reliable than current equipment), etc.

    We've also developed construction methods that are faster and more reliable than the ones used in the 1930's. For example, the beams in the Empire State Building were riveted. Today's beams are welded. Materials are also better today – steel, concrete, sealants, etc, everything has greater consistently and is more reliable. Hand tools are better. Inspection equipment is better. Everything is better.

    Yes, worker safety is more important today than it was back then. But shouldn't that be more than offset by the dramatic technological progress?

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  35. Dearieme says:

    To get at the truth it would be worth looking at the progress made by the same firms in domestic and foreign markets – for instance, the brisk, successful building of the Hong Kong underground by the same British firms who took much longer over comparable projects at home.

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  36. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    i doubt i will be the first isteve'r to mention it, but if you want to look at how far we've fallen in building infrastructure check out The Big Dig in Boston. It officially went from 1982 to 2007. It's almost unfathomable how it got that far, and we'll likely never know.

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  37. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    others have mentioned it, but the "cost" of death has gone up dramatically. Not only in real dollar terms, but also social opprobrium. The Panama Canal construction project killed give-or-take 100k people. There is NO WAY in 2014 we could have a public works/construction project that could kill even 1,000 people, let alone 100,000 people.

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  38. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    In Texas they seem to be able to build a toll road in about 4 seconds flat. And they put an 85 mph speed limit on it. And there are zero humans at the toll booths (in fact, there are no toll booths) so that cost is gone, too… it's not a bad model.

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  39. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Anon 9:27a

    Note also that it took us only ~ 4 y to win that war, but today we can't conquer a bunch of Middle Eastern goat herders after 15 yrs.

    If we conducted war the same way today as we did World War II, I assure you that the surrender of our enemies would be near instantaneous given modern weaponry.

    In World War II, we indiscriminately bombed civilians with ever larger weapons right up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and actual warfare with the enemy armed forces was a total war conducted with a savage ferocity which would shock modern sensibilities because of the number of deaths it would cause both on our side and the enemy's.

    To give one tiny example, in Germany in March of 1945, when the conclusion of the war was obvious, we went in and flattened the picturesque little walled medieval town of Rotenburg ob der Tauber, merely because Hitler hadn't surrendered yet. Those who tried to flee the bombing were met by fighter aircraft that strafed everything that moved on the roads – people, cars, cows, horses.

    The problem with modern war is that we dont want to actually kill or offend anyone, because we don't believe we have any real enemies.

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  40. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Anon @ 2:46p

    i doubt i will be the first isteve'r to mention it, but if you want to look at how far we've fallen in building infrastructure check out The Big Dig in Boston. It officially went from 1982 to 2007. It's almost unfathomable how it got that far, and we'll likely never know.

    I currently work on the East Side Access project, which is very similar in scope and scale to the Big Dig.

    These projects go on interminably because we drastically limit the possible logisitics to avoid disrupting everyday urban life, and the projects must be threaded through the existing infrastructure of utilities, roads, railroads, bridges and buildings without disruption. Its obviously considered unacceptable to relocate a water pipe by shutting off water service to an area for a month, or to move some railroad tracks by terminating commuter service for a summer because of the economic and social disruption it would cause.

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  41. David says: • Website

    >The reflexive blaming of unions doesn't make any sense.<

    As the number of unions continues to shrink, condemnations of unionism grow. Just as denunciations of federal taxes are ubiquitous and ever more bitter even though federal taxes are at historically low levels. Just as the fewer whites are born, the more blame (for everything) is loaded on them. All our problems are because of unions, taxes, and honkeys. The people learned their lines 30 or 40 years ago and, along with the media, are sticking to the script like Norma Desmond.

    Btw, the Mexico City metro is pretty good to ride on, comparable to the NYC subway. I preferred the bus system but tried a dozen or so metro rides. They built Line 12 (16 miles) in 5 years (2007-12).

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  42. Adding to the reasons stated above, big development projects offer major opportunities for developers and other interested parties to make a fortune on ancillary projects, so competing interests confound reasonable plans if they're not getting a cut of the action. In the Bay Area it took more than 20 freaking years to replace the eastern span of the Bay Bridge after the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. Nearly a decade was lost during Willie Brown's two terms while he was trying to facilitate a sweet deal for developer friends on Treasure Island. Art Agnos and Frank Jordan were just ineffectual as I recall…

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  43. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    "or to move some railroad tracks by terminating commuter service for a summer because of the economic and social disruption it would cause."

    Yet NYC subway lines ARE often suspended for months at a time. Streets are frequently dug up as well.

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  44. Peter says: • Website

    NYC is also working on the 2nd avenue subway line – the first section (which is really just 4 stops) is expected to open 10 years after the project started.

    It has been in the planning stage since the 1920's.

    Somewhere around 100 men died during the building of the Hoover Dam, which took 5 years.

    The first man to die and the last man to die were father and son.

    Peter

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  45. Jody says:

    "Why are infrastructure projects so slow these days?"

    lawyers.

    most of the united states could not even be built today. lawyers would stop most of it from ever being constructed. the united states as it exists is basically a huge collection of grandfathered in infrastructure projects.

    if you really want to be astounded, realize that the united states built over 100 commercial nuclear reactors in about 25 years, and they generate about 20% of the country's electricity today. that's a rate of about 4 reactors per year. that could never, ever, EVER happen again. the US can barely even build 1 new reactor. as this fleet slowly ages out and is deactivated, enjoy fossil fuels or expensive wind and solar as replacements.

    china built a new EPR reactor in about 4 years.

    my dad's dad's dad worked on hoover dam. the days of america being that productive are over.

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  46. Jody says:

    i'd be interested to see if the united states could build the interstate highway system from scratch beginning in 2014.

    just a thought experiment. imagine if the highways did not exist and had to be built starting today.

    i bet it couldn't be done.

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  47. Most eloquent statement of the "reason why" from aka Vijay Prozac:

    "The four words that can save your life:

    Our civilization is declining.

    When your family members invent needless drama, your workplace is ruled by idiots, you can't drive across town because too many fools are causing obstructions, and your politicians are corrupt, don't kid yourself: your society is falling apart. It happens slowly, so people have been saying this for years, and it has been true but it has taken some time to happen. Of course, there are also idiots in any age who claim the sky is falling, but there are also idiots who claim that doing meth is good for you. The problem is idiots, not that their message automatically makes anyone who ever speaks it wrong.

    All the people you know are under great stress because (a) they subconsciously know this civilization is falling apart and (b) they lack the guts to confront it, because that means they have to stop being selfish and start a fight involving real sacrifice; a fight that isn't immediately obvious to everyone, like a war or natural disaster. Oops."

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  48. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Love that 2nd avenue subway.

    It goes back to Robert Moses vs Jane Jacobs.

    The Chinese aren't rocket scientists, but they built a lot of high speed trains in a few years.

    We can't even get a single line built in California. Ever. Because people have near absolute property rights.

    The only solution is optimize what you have. Freight in the US is incredible. You have logistics companies. Intermodal Containers. Great freight railroads. Pretty good highways. Much more fuel efficient semis. Pipelines. 40% of ton mile are rail, 30% truck, and the rest water and pipelines.

    All this sharing stuff … Air B&B, the ride sharing things.

    Today sustainability is like the spotted owl of a generation ago. All this sharing is inherently more efficient and ergo sustainable. I think they will prevail against the Hotel and Taxi lobby.

    People might as well face it that we won't have any major new transportation infrastructure in the future.

    They do have 'Bus Rapid Transit' which is roughly an above ground subway. That would wok.

    Around where I live, it took them 3 years to widen an intersection. I guess you have the power company, Gas Company, Cable TV, sewers, drainage issues, temporary lanes, street lights, and then the road. With proper financial incentives and computing power, I don't see why it couldn't be done in 3 weeks, max.

    Bottom like being we better just decide to optimize what we have, cause we aren't building more.

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  49. Simon says:

    My theory is that the construction industry is an unofficial unemployment scheme.

    I work in the Australian construction industry with a commercial role. I'd describe it as 2 blokes digging a hole and a bunch of people tendering, forecasting, costing, obtaining permits, writing reports and submitting these reports to board members, clients and authorities to be reviewed by separate groups of people.

    Ever wonder what all those people in office buildings do?

    With the percentage of people employed in actual production being so low, most bureaucratic work must be dealing with other bureaucracies … or having coffee.

    Construction projects are usually funded by the government, indeed few others could afford the costs for major projects, and the cost structure for my industry rail – is particularly corpulent.

    Since this spending is often part of stimulus packages perhaps these employment creating inefficiencies are a feature and not a bug so far as the powers that be are concerned?

    The main problem with this Keynesian model is that sans circular waste we could probably realize another one of Keynes' visions – a 15 hour work week.

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  50. Jerry says:

    QUOTE: To give one tiny example, in Germany in March of 1945, when the conclusion of the war was obvious, we went in and flattened the picturesque little walled medieval town of Rotenburg ob der Tauber, merely because Hitler hadn't surrendered yet. Those who tried to flee the bombing were met by fighter aircraft that strafed everything that moved on the roads – people, cars, cows, horses.

    –This is incorrect, as cursory research will show (Rotenburg is a major tourist attraction in any case). I propose that this anonymous be banned or suspended.

    I am calling up this relatively trivial example as symptomatic of the unpleasant American self-hate that I see here, especially when Russia or Japan come up.

    But the comment about "Our civilization is declining" was brilliant. I see it every day here in Hong Kong.

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  51. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Inclusiveness.

    Everyone and his dog now needs to be included or at least consulted in the design process. God forbid we return to the dark ages, when the architect and engineer were gods. Isn't it curious, though, that the architects and engineers are still mostly white males?

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  52. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    But the comment about "Our civilization is declining" was brilliant. I see it every day here in Hong Kong.

    Is that an every day saying in HK amongst the Chinese ('their' civilization declining) or that from your HK perspective you see 'our' western civilization declining?

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  53. Map says:

    The big skyscraper i Dubai is not connected to a sewer line. Water has to be trucked in. Hong Kong skyscrapers in the financial district do not have heat.

    Modernity has a very think veneer in these places.

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The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
The evidence is clear — but often ignored