Your current web browser is outdated. For best viewing experience, please consider upgrading to the latest version.

Donation - Other Level

Please use the quantity box to donate any amount you wish. Sign Up to Donate

Contact

Send a question or comment using the form below. This message may be routed through support staff.

Email Article

Password Reset Request

Register


Add a topic or expert to your feed.

Following

Follow Experts & Topics

Stay on top of our work by selecting topics and experts of interest.

Experts
Topics
Project
On The Ground
ERROR
Main Error Mesage Here
More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed
ERROR
Main Error Mesage Here
More detailed message would go here to provide context for the user and how to proceed

Manhattan Institute

search
Close Nav
Share this commentary on Close

Trump Needs to Think Big and Build Right to Reform Our Infrastructure

commentary

Trump Needs to Think Big and Build Right to Reform Our Infrastructure

New York Post November 14, 2016
Urban PolicyInfrastructure & Transportation

Donald J. Trump became president-elect in part because people are fed up with government incompetence. One place where that’s obvious is infrastructure. Comparing us to China during the campaign, Trump said: “they have railroads and trains that go 250 miles an hour. We have the Long Island Rail Road that chugs out to Long Island and chug, chug chug.”

It’s easier to spend a trillion dollars poorly on trains, bridges, and water than it is to spend it well.

Now Trump wants to spend a trillion dollars to fix the problem. That’s 40 percent higher than our existing spending.

It’s easier to spend a trillion dollars poorly on trains, bridges, and water than it is to spend it well.

Trump has some experience. In 1986, he first plunged into New York City government after watching it try and fail for 12 years to rebuild a Central Park skating rink. Reading in a newspaper article that Mayor Ed Koch would need another 18 months, Trump offered to do it in four. He finished in three.

Building an ice rink is different from building a subway line — but not that different. They both involve hiring the most competent companies with the best technology and making sure they do the best job for the best price.

Four tips for Trump on how to succeed in infrastructure beyond ice rinks:

Think big. Yes, we have to fix our existing infrastructure. We need a replacement tunnel under the Hudson River because the old one is deteriorated. But we should build new things, too. Why shouldn’t we have real high-speed rail service between Washington and Boston, cutting an hour off of each trip?

Don’t worry about borrowing money. Trump says his infrastructure plan will be “deficit-neutral”: he’ll either raise new taxes to cover the spending, or force projects to pay for themselves.

But it’s more important to differentiate between  infrastructure projects that can pay for themselves, and infrastructure projects that can’t. Airports, big bridges, and pipelines can pay for themselves through customers’ fees and tolls.

Subway and commuter-rail projects can’t — but they are still worthy.

Make deals. Most infrastructure spending is at the state and city level. The feds provide about a quarter of the money, but don’t have much control. Trump should help states and cities spend smarter by rewarding those who plan projects well, finishing on time or on budget.

Federal, state and local governments should consider environmental and other impacts of projects, but they shouldn’t delay for years.

Trump should prioritize projects where construction workers and managers have agreed to reasonable work rules and staffing levels, so that they don’t waste taxpayer money.

Trump mentioned the Long Island Rail Road. But one reason the railroad has been so slow to build a new station on Manhattan’s East Side is because workers could never agree who would do what work, causing delays.

Quality is more important than speed. The point of infrastructure projects is to build better infrastructure — not to create jobs or cut ribbons fast. Spending too much too fast is a risk. Pushing too hard too fast drives costs up, as managers scramble to find skilled workers and materials.

Trump should focus on what to build, and how, rather than stick to an artificial timeline and dollar amount.

This piece originally appeared at the New York Post

______________________

Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. Follow her on Twitter here.

Saved!
Close