What infrastructure projects should we want?

What's the cost of building new stuff
compared to repairing what we have?

A climate-proof municipal budget means spending on maintenance, not new infrastructure.We may soon see an explosion of infrastructure spending. Trump, Clinton and Sanders all campaigned on the sorry state of America's roads, water works, transit and bridges.

But what type of project will benefit you and me the most? Persuasive research says 'Fix what we have. Don't build more!' There are two reasons: first what we have is in bad shape; second, for every $10 in construction cost, a highway requires around $80 (at 4% inflation) to maintain over a 50-year lifetime. This could go higher as damage from global warming increases. Federal money may pay the $10 today but it's we (and our kids) who will pay the $80 through future city and state taxes.

And we're not going to start funding that maintenance kitty, saving for known future expenses, any more than we did for our current roads and bridges (or, in many places, for municipal pensions either).

Animal groups tell us not to get a pet on impulse (especially as a Christmas present), when the costs and problems of providing a good home may not be understood. If Washington starts handing out infrastructure presents, let's make sure we choose wisely. We'll take the maintenance money, thank you.

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