Summing Up the Economic Stimulus Plan

But as signed into law by the President, the plan allocates only $48 billion to highways, rail, and mass transit. That’s a mere 6% of the Plan budget. Architects and the building sector will stand to benefit from more money allocated for improving public housing, veteran’s facilities, and federal agency buildings, but the dreams of an infrastructural stimulus for the profession are over.
Still, the administration continues to call the Plan the largest investment in infrastructure since the since the 1956 creation of the Interstate Highway System. It may be, but it runs a  distant second. The Federal-Aid Highway Act authorized the expenditure of $25 billion between 1957 and 1968. That is $188 billion in today’s dollars. Moreover it was accompanied by a gas tax that fed the system annually, raising $28.4 billion in 2006. Since then, with the drop in gas consumption that accompanied higher prices, revenue has fallen, but the point is clear: the Plan does not deliver a lot of money for infrastructure. 
In contrast, the American Society of Civil Engineers calls for $2.2 trillion of investment in infrastructure. To take a local example, New York is getting $1.25 billion for mass transit, more than any other state, but the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel is estimated to cost $7 billion and the Second Avenue subway over $17 billion and those are only two planned projects. Instead of a vigorously rebuilt infrastructural future, we are treading water at best.  
Frustration with the Plan even led Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Transportation subcommittee on Highways and Transit—once discussed as a possible Secretary of Transportation under Obama—to break with party lines and vote against it. For DeFazio, funding tax cuts to appease Republicans at the expense of infrastructure funding and the total elimination of funds for school construction is unacceptable.  

DeFazio blamed Larry Summers, Obama’s top economic advisor, saying he “hates infrastructure.” But its more than that too. There are structural problems with funding infrastructure today, problems that I suspect contributed to the decision to cut spending.  

But as signed into law by the President, the plan allocates only $48 billion to highways, rail, and mass transit. That’s a mere 6% of the Plan budget. Architects and the building sector will stand to benefit from more money allocated for improving public housing, veteran’s facilities, and federal agency buildings, but the dreams of an infrastructural stimulus for the profession are over.
Still, the administration continues to call the Plan the largest investment in infrastructure since the since the 1956 creation of the Interstate Highway System. It may be, but it runs a  distant second. The Federal-Aid Highway Act authorized the expenditure of $25 billion between 1957 and 1968. That is $188 billion in today’s dollars. Moreover it was accompanied by a gas tax that fed the system annually, raising $28.4 billion in 2006. Since then, with the drop in gas consumption that accompanied higher prices, revenue has fallen, but the point is clear: the Plan does not deliver a lot of money for infrastructure. 
In contrast, the American Society of Civil Engineers calls for $2.2 trillion of investment in infrastructure. To take a local example, New York is getting $1.25 billion for mass transit, more than any other state, but the Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel is estimated to cost $7 billion and the Second Avenue subway over $17 billion and those are only two planned projects. Instead of a vigorously rebuilt infrastructural future, we are treading water at best.  
Frustration with the Plan even led Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Transportation subcommittee on Highways and Transit—once discussed as a possible Secretary of Transportation under Obama—to break with party lines and vote against it. For DeFazio, funding tax cuts to appease Republicans at the expense of infrastructure funding and the total elimination of funds for school construction is unacceptable.  

DeFazio blamed Larry Summers, Obama’s top economic advisor, saying he “hates infrastructure.” But its more than that too. There are structural problems with funding infrastructure today, problems that I suspect contributed to the decision to cut spending.  

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