Evan Soltas
Apr 15, 2013

The Myth of the Falling Bridge

Oh, I've been waiting so long to write a detailed piece on infrastructure. I finally do so in Bloomberg:

There's more than a touch of Chicken Little in common arguments for more infrastructure spending. "The bridges are falling, the bridges are falling!"

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers issues the U.S. an infrastructure "report card." And, just as predictably, it says that U.S. infrastructure is decrepit and needs expensive new investments. The latest one, released last month, gave the nation a D+ grade and recommended an extra $1.6 trillion in spending by 2020.

Are American bridges actually falling, though? Is the U.S. underinvested in infrastructure?

Maybe it's going too far to say, "The U.S. is doing just fine, thank you very much." The nation would benefit from reordering its infrastructure priorities -- away from new highways, for example, where we are already overbuilt and usage is falling for the first extended period on record. And we'd do well to take advantage of low interest rates and idle construction resources to knock out all of our future infrastructure needs.

But the idea that the U.S. has an infrastructure crisis? No. A broad, permanent increase in spending is unwarranted.