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Thursday, December 18, 2008

City "guru" Kotkin: Don't spend Infrastucture Stimulus Money on Stupid Projects, like the Boodoggle right here in Pittsburgh

Joel Kotkin, author of "The City" and columnist on about all things pertaining to regional economics, wrote about how it is critical that the Obama administration determines which infrastructure projects are worthy of a piece of the several hundred billion dollars in infrastructure spending that he has promised. I couldn't agree more. Kotkin also singled out Pittsburgh and highlighted our "tunnel to nowhere" project as an example of how easy it is to waste half a billion on a needless infrastructure project:

Perhaps no place epitomizes misplaced priorities better than Pittsburgh. Widely hailed in the media as a poster child for the urban "renaissance," Pittsburgh has suffered a precipitous decline in population: Its 310,000 residents are less than half its 1950 peak. It now shares with parts of the former East Germany the gloomy demographic of having more residents die each year than are born.

Like other cities, Pittsburgh has sought to revive itself with billions in new stadiums, arenas and cultural facilities. Meanwhile, its roads and bridges are in a constant state of disrepair. Most recently, the city embarked on a scheme to create a 1.2-mile, $435 million transit tunnel under the Allegheny River to connect downtown's heavily subsidized towers with taxpayer-funded pro sports stadiums and a new casino. This "tunnel to nowhere," derided by a local columnist as the nation's "premier transit boondoggle," will no doubt be the sort of thing many states and localities will seek federal infrastructure funds for, justifying them on the basis of both short-term economic stimulus and some kind of "green" agenda.
Ouch. I can't say I disagree with Kotkin, and I think his points further emphasize the need for the NIB - the National Infrastructure Bank. We need to take the politics out of deciding which projects get federal funding, and an independent board on the NIB is a smart way to make sure that projects that have the highest probability of generating jobs and growth get the funding instead of projects where we have to import Japanese labor to bore holes under the Allegheny River.

Hopefully the North Shore Connector boondoggle doesn't hurt our chances for new infrastructure projects here in the burgh, but judging from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's announcement today of the city of Pittsburgh's Stimulus plan wish list, it seems like instead of bold audacious projects, like commuter rail, streetcars, or linking downtown to the Oakland corridor, the mayor is playing it safe with projects such as a supermarket, and $10 million worth of asphalt. I am not kidding you - read for yourself. More on this in the next post.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks for the list and posting.

I agree: underwhelmed.

The walkway at the new ARENA is on this list? Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I think these are incredible projects actually I heard in that area will be constructed a best pharmacy it could be perfect for all citizens who living there.