How Much Bang Do We Get For Our Infrastructure Buck?

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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.)

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Fact:

In-depth journalism that investigates the powerful takes real money and is so damn important right now.But it doesn’t take a Mother Jones investigation to know that billionaires and corporations will never fund the type of reporting (like they do politicians) we do that exists to help bring about change. Instead, our mission-driven journalism is made possible by people power, and has been for 46 years now since our founding as a non-profit.

In “TITLE TK” Monica Bauerlein writes about the perilous moment we’re in, and why it’s so important that we raise $325,000 by the time November’s midterms are decided so we can be ready to throw everything we have at the big issues facing the nation no matter what happens. Please help MoJo’s people-powered journalism with a donation today.

$400,000 to go!

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