Thursday, January 22, 2009

TIME Warns Of Shovel-Ready vs. Shovel-Worthy


Missouri transportation officials have already said they are ready to proceed with many "shovel-ready" road projects if some version of President Barack Obama's proposed $825 billion dollar economic stimulus package survives the wrath of Congress.

But in the Jan. 26th edition of TIME magazine, journalist Michael Grunwald brings up the relevant question of "shovel-ready" vs. "shovel-worthy." Grunwald, who pokes holes exposing some possible pitfalls of the stimulus, points out that some road projects that states may want to pursue may not be worthwhile for the longterm.

"Many projects are shovel-ready now only because they failed to clear the spectacularly low bar Congress set for pork in the past," writes Grunwald.

Grunwald also argues that fixing existing roads might be smarter than building new ones. "When you fix a road, you increase your need for future road repairs. When you build a road, you increase your need for future road repairs. Repairs are also quicker to get moving than new construction . . . New construction tends to produce rural or exurban sprawl roads that promote speculative development, overstretch municipal services, lengthen commutes and increase gasoline consumption and emissions," he writes.

Grunwald also makes a passing critique of Missouri's plans for road improvements with the stimulus. "Meanwhile states like Alabama, Kansas and Texas have been releasing lists of shovel-ready transportation projects that are dramatically skewed toward out of the way sprawl roads. Missouri's list was all roads, none of them in St. Louis."

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