December 3, 2008

Infrastructure Inertia

I realize that with the election of Barack Obama, we've entered a New Age of Hope and Change in which miracles will happen overnight, but it is fun to keep noticing more examples of how ludicrous is his goal of creating or saving 2.5 million jobs within 24 months through infrastructure investments.

Perhaps the most obvious Stuff White People Like infrastructure project in America is extending the Washington D.C. Metrorail out to Dulles Airport. Right now, when you arrive at Dulles you have to get on a bus (and you know how much SWPLs hate buses), which takes you to the end of the line for the subway (you know how much SWPLs love public transit that isn't a bus). It's a hassle. Fortunately, today the Washington Post has the exciting news that the last hurdle has been overcome so we'll all be riding the subway to Dulles Real Soon Now:

Federal regulators have approved a long-awaited extension of Metrorail to Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport, virtually assuring construction of a $5.2 billion project that regional leaders say is crucial to ease congestion and spur economic growth in Northern Virginia.

By signing off on the project, the Federal Transit Administration reversed its position of almost a year ago, when its regulators declared Dulles rail unqualified to receive $900 million in federal funding, citing cost overruns, delays and concerns about management. The project now heads to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and the Office of Management and Budget for final approval. But the transit agency's action is widely viewed as a critical achievement that essentially guarantees the federal funding. Without it, the project would have died, state and regional officials said.

"We've been pushing this boulder up the hill for years," said U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.). "This is one of the best examples in my 30 years here of bipartisanship achieving an end result that benefits the entire greater Washington metropolitan area."

The reversal caps 11 months of frantic activity by the region's top politicians, who have steadfastly pressured Peters and even the White House to keep alive a project that state, federal and airport officials have planned for more than 40 years.

Read that again: "a project that state, federal and airport officials have planned for more than 40 years." That's back to LBJ's heyday.

Fortunately, now, it's Full Steam Ahead:
The first phase of the rail line, for which Virginia is seeking the federal money, would have four stations at Tysons Corner and end at Wiehle Avenue in Reston. It is scheduled for completion in 2013. The second phase, to the airport and into Loudoun, is expected to be done two years after that.

So, assuming it's finished right on schedule (which is a big assumption), connecting the DC subway to the DC airport will only have taken 47 years.

By the way, I wonder if the Chicago Housing Authority has yet finished removing all the asbestos from housing projects, which was Obama's big "success" as a community organizer over two decades ago...

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

23 comments:

anony said...

The new Capitol Visitor Center started at 90 million in the 1990s and came in at 600 million. This light rail will be the same

Harry Reid complained about smelly visitors at the recent inauguration of the Capitol Visitor Center

headache said...

"Harry Reid complained about smelly visitors"

Ha ha, you mean the ones that vote for him?

It’s well known in engineering circles that planning takes far longer than construction. Especially architectural planning. There is a sociological reason for this. Apart from the political games involved, planners are very involved with their ideas and fight endlessly with colleagues about who is the wiser one. On top most are lazy and leave the nitty gritty for recent college grads and draughtsmen. Usually when things get hot, they find out 2 hours before the deadline that everything was calculated incorrectly, so there is a 3 month delay to repair things. Then the client (also planners) changes his mind, and the whole process starts again. Architects are even worse because they think of themselves as artists, so the level of introspection and vainglorious-ness is even higher than with engineers, who are mostly dull and lazy and use standards to duck creative thinking and responsibility.

Architects are not responsible because they are artists, i.e. can never make mistakes. Stuff with electrical and mechanical components is fun because companies like to try out their latest gadgets on governmental projects. The results can be guessed.

The guys on site are the fastest because everyone is looking at them and all the smartasses can notice when they are lazy or making mistakes.

All of this is so typical of a status-obsessed society. Of course on top of this you have all the other groups Steve talks about. So is it any wonder large projects take 20 years to plan and about 3 to build.

beowulf said...

Between 1940 and 1945, one Corps of Engineers officer, Leslie Groves, built the Pentagon AND the A-bomb (and if anyone scoffs, he didn't build anything, lots of people played a role-- you're part of the problem).

We were a better country in World War II and its been downhill ever since. Putting a man on the moon was an anomaly that isn't replicable unless we find more Nazi scientists to import.

headache said...

beowulf said...
"Putting a man on the moon was an anomaly that isn't replicable unless we find more Nazi scientists to import."

Thanks for posting that. I'm studying Aeronautical/Space Engineering at the Technical Uni in Dresden and we are going through the A4 (German V2) designs, some of which comes from that uni. It’s amazing how the US and Russians pilfered both the designs and the stock of scientists immediately post WWII and made use of them for their ICBM and moon rocketry. Basically most of those designs have German origins. Without WWII Germany would have put a man on the moon.

ed said...

You might not be aware, but here in the "East Bay" professional commuters like to take the express bus to San Francisco to work, rather than the BART train, which they find to be more crowded, noisy, and uncomfortable.

So buses don't always lose to rail.

ed said...

I think you're a little off on this...the thing that they started planning 40 years ago wasn't just the extension to Dulles, it was the ENTIRE Washington Metrorail system. The system only started operation in 1976, and has been extended many times since then.

Matt Parrott said...

Riding a city bus is always a little more scary when it's your first time on a city bus, and you're the only White guy on the bus, and you're heading to a semiannual American Renaissance Conference on that bus.

bjdouble said...

They're adding to a line (the Orange) which has a huge bottleneck at the tunnel underneath the Potomac. Instead of solving that, they're adding more capacity at the edge. And now Dulles has both an empty toll road and a metro line. But there just aren't that many people who use Dulles.

koos said...

"By the way, I wonder if the Chicago Housing Authority has yet finished removing all the asbestos from housing projects, which was Obama's big "success" as a community organizer over two decades ago..."

It’s funny how many ambitious politicians and "community organisers" jumped on this asbestos bandwagon. From what I understand the origin of all this were the lung-cancer statistics for asbestos mine workers which came out of various hospitals.

Asbestos is only dangerous in it’s loose form. As a compressed and hardened product in the form of walls, pots or water tanks it’s inert and poses no danger. The great thing about asbestos is that it does not rust. Since I cannot imagine AA recipients in Chicago being avid home improvers who were in danger of contracting it whilst drilling, sanding and rearranging walls, I don’t understand what the fuss was all about. Most probably the removal process with all the tenants being still in place was far more labour-intensive and disease causing (due to the dust development) than just leaving the stuff inside and taking it down when the buildings were eventually demolished.

But I guess young Obama was looking out for an easy start-up project for his political career and back then asbestos was one of those trendy subjects the papers were wringing their hands about. Why bother with a proper health risk analysis if you can make your name known on the street block.

Matt Parrott said...

dbjouble said...

...but there just aren't that many people who use Dulles.

I bet that will change when there's a metro line. We tried to save money by using Dulles but have decided to no longer use it because of the awkward transportation situation. Add a metro, and I, for one, will reconsider it.

Anonymous said...

"...a $5.2 billion project that regional leaders say is crucial to ease congestion and spur economic growth..."

This mess shows that the SWPL belief in good-government is foolish. Since the project will cost at least double times that 5.2 billion (in constant dollars, even) and will neither relieve congestion nor spur economic growth, the DOT correctly refused to approve it last year. It does not meet the standards set by law.

At least the reporter who wrote that story put in the words "regional leaders say." That is actually faintly subversive-- many reporters would have left out the attribution. Too bad the reporter wasn't truly ballsy-- he could have tacked on something like "even though all recent rail-to-airport projects in other cities have not delivered any economic benefits despite running far over budget."

headache said...

Actually we have been here before in recent times. Practically whenever there's a dent in the economy I read about some western government spending on infrastructure. Japan is just such a token because of the mafia-like connections to big construction there which are horrific.

It’s funny that Obama would decide on such a boring and tried-and-failed method as infrastructure spending and yet the press makes it sound as if its the next thing to come after the Apollo missions. Are the MSM really this dumb or are they being cynical and just hyping along their man?

kerdasi amaq said...

Can they really afford to build it?

Paying off the National debt should be a higher priority, not making it bigger.

Half Sigma said...

I used to write about this when I lived in the DC area.

The cost of extending the Metro isn't worth the benefits. There are lots of underused Metro stations. If zoning were changed to allow high rise building to be build near all of these underused Metro stations, then usage would increase without having to spend god billions of dollars.

Wade Nichols said...

From Bloomberg:

"Airport Without Planes Shows Japan Hooked on ‘Useless Projects’"

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aYomskNBwinE&refer=home

Anonymous said...

Folks, have you seen pics of Dubai recently? The tallest building on Earth, hundreds of other skyscrapers, giant man-made islands in the shapes of palms and of the map of the world, etc. in just a few years. I hear they're building an amusement park that's several times bigger than all Disney parks put together. Well, and of course the biggest mall on Earth, and so on.

Western engineering talent + south Asian labor + Arab autocratic efficiency = unbelievably amazing things. Dubai's emir doesn't have to deal with environmental or any other kinds of bureaucracies. His word is law. And to think that we in the West once had sensible forms of government too...

By the way, I'm not being ironic here. All the Renaissance greats were supported by autocratic rulers as well. If only Arab sheiks could be persuaded to fund scientific research or space exploration instead of this 1001 Nights-like nonsense in the desert. Their sensible, unspoiled views on government and project management + the still-not-dead-yet Western smarts and creativity could one day save the world.

steve wood said...

The cost of extending the Metro isn't worth the benefits. There are lots of underused Metro stations. If zoning were changed to allow high rise building to be build near all of these underused Metro stations, then usage would increase without having to spend god billions of dollars.

NIMBYism is the curse of too much (or too much local) democracy. In the western 'burbs of Philadelphia, for example, there are many regional rail stations that have NO parking lots, or lots with so few spaces that they're full by 6:30 a.m. This includes most of the stations on the Main Line, which has been serving whiteRpeople for more than a century. But just try proposing the construction of parking garages at these stations to attract more riders to mass transit--something that should be near and dear to the hearts of SWPL everywhere--and listen to the howls of outrage and watch the lawsuits fly.

There are woefully inadequate highways here, too, that will never be widened no matter how much money is available for "infrastructure improvement" because noisy local interests triumph over the betterment of the area as a whole.

Transportation should be managed at state or regional levels, period, and the hell with what a few disgruntled locals think.

tycoon said...

pics of Dubai recently? The tallest building on Earth, hundreds of other skyscrapers, giant man-made islands in the shapes of palms and of the map of the world, etc. in just a few years. I hear they're building an amusement park that's several times bigger than all Disney parks put together. Well, and of course the biggest mall on Earth, and so on."

My understanding is that the projects are on hold now, standing there like anxious skeletons. This building frenzy, based on oil-rich Dubaist boredom at not having to really work for a living--is predicated on the expectation that the unrealistic price of $120-140 per barrel of oil would remain or go even higher. As of December 4, oil is about 45.00 a barrel and not likely to go up that much in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Anon said...

"koos said...

It’s funny how many ambitious politicians and "community organisers" jumped on this asbestos bandwagon."

You are quite right. The asbestos abatement racket is just that - a racket. The original health complaints were logged by miners and workers in ship yards in WWII who worked with asbestos, probably without benefit of any kind of air-filter.

In it's finished form, as long as you don't mess with it, it's pretty innocuous.

During the time of Obama's community organizing, the number of people in the CHA would have died from asbestos exposure is probably just about zero. They were far more likely to die from crack, AIDS, and gunfire.

Wanderer said...

The point of expanding the rail line is simply to serve more of NorthernVirginia's business and population centers (especially to serve Tyson's Corner and the Herndon-Reston area). It is NOT some fanatical single-purpose "Drang Nach Airporten".

Virginia residents are said to be the majority of the ridership of the Metrorail system, but only around 25% of Metro infrastructure is on the Virginia side of the river. The international airport connection is just a convenient stop along the way, and "Rail to Dulles" is just a shorthand for the project as a whole (to get several hundreds of thousands more people near a station).

By the way, those buses out to Dulles airport are private charter buses. For which you pay $9 for a one-way ticket from the train station. No Metrobuses go out as far as the airport, so the SWPL criticism [as I understand it] doesn't really apply. (Metrobuses in NorthernVirginia as elsewhere tend to consist of ~80% post-1965ers and maybe ~15% US-blacks; which is obviously the reason why whites do not ride them).

Ironical note: There used to be a regional rail line from Alexandria that went directly past Dulles (nearly reaching the WV line at its terminus). With the rise of the automobile it discontinued passenger service around 1950, boomed briefly in the late 1950s when DULLES airport was being built(!) to haul out construction materials, and finally ran its last train 1967. Afterwards the tracks were pulled up, and the right-of-way now hosts a pretty impressive bike trail that runs 45 miles from Alexandria nearly out to the WV panhandle.

If they wanted rail out to Dulles so bad even back in the late 1960s, someone should have had the basic foresight to keep that rail line intact. If they did, there wouldn't be all this idiotic bickering year after year about federal and state dollars to expand the subpar (imo) Metro system.

[Another example of Automobile Supremacy working it destructive powers.]

Ronduck said...

steve wood said...

There are woefully inadequate highways here, too, that will never be widened no matter how much money is available for "infrastructure improvement" because noisy local interests triumph over the betterment of the area as a whole.

We don't have that problem as much here in AZ. When the loop 202 commuter freeway was being extended around the southeast of the valley the various cities were all itching to have the state build it near them.

Anonymous said...

London Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, only had to wait 32 years until its first rail link with the outside world was opened in 1977.

I suddenly feel quite proud of poor old Blighty.

baduin said...

Polish Highlanders were reputed to make good money from Chicago asbestos, but I heard lately that some people from the north of Poland also managed to benefit.