How Much Bang Do We Get For Our Infrastructure Buck?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Responding to a CAP report about how to grow the economy, Josh Barro pushes back on the contention that we have a serious infrastructure problem. Setting that aside for the moment, his follow-up comment is worth addressing:

The real U.S. infrastructure gap is a cost gap: Big public construction projects cost way more here than they do in other countries. Why would we make a major new financial commitment to infrastructure before fixing the problem that we pay way too much for what we do build?

Is this true? I don’t doubt that it costs more to build public infrastructure in America than it does in, say, China or Mexico. But is it more expensive than in Spain or Germany or Denmark? If so, why?

As I said, this is worth addressing. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything very authoritative on this subject. Does anybody know of anything? Even given the obvious problems of construction in an already-built environment, the cost of building infrastructure in America, as well as the time it takes to complete anything, has always struck me as puzzling. If this problem really is worse here than it is even in other densely built, advanced economies, I’d sure like to know why.

UPDATE: Alon Levy has some raw numbers for rail projects here and subway projects here. His figures suggest that average U.S. costs per mile are considerably higher than in Europe. Stephen Smith takes a crack at explaining why here. (If it sounds familiar, it’s because I linked to Smith’s column last year.)

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate