Why Can't We Build Things Anymore? Because Government Is Terrible

Putting the 'fruc' in 'infrastructure,' New York City edition


Don't flag me, bro. ||| NYSafetyandTraining.com

It's a common Democratic Party refrain: We no longer spend money on infrastructure! (Actually not true.) Our roads and bridges are crumbling! (They're actually better than they've been in a while.) Why, we used to build stuff like the Golden Gate bridge! (Who's we, kemosabe?)

You hear these types of questionably accurate comments in the places where they sound most plausible: Big, typically Democrat-controlled cities, where the roads and bridges and tunnels and airports really do feel like 1980s Romania. Earlier this month, notes the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas, statist New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and clownish Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made a big show of riding around the subway and demanding more infrastructure money from Washington.

The only problem with that, aside from the question of why Kansas farmers should pay for Gotham commuters (and vice-versa)? With every layer of government comes a new chance for price-inflation. For instance, New York pays "flaggers"–people who stand near roadside construction sites and make sure that cars don't run over hard hats–$11.25 an hour. But, Gelinas, writes,

[Federal] labor investigators visited a Lower Manhattan job site two years ago and determined that the flaggers aren't traffic-control agents but construction laborers.

It's a nice promotion: Federal rules mandate that "laborers" in New York City earn $39.85 an hour, plus another $34.88 in benefits, for a total of $75 an hour.

Unless New York City started paying $150,000 and up for each flagger, the feds would take away our road money.

There's also a sexy racism/sexism angle:

"We have approached this matter as a [labor-law] violation," the feds wrote. But "since the involved workers were primarily female/minorities .?.?. there is a potential .?.?. civil rights violation."

Writing in the New York Daily News, the Manhattan Institute's Aaron M. Renn makes what should be a chilling observation: "Why do New York's projects cost so much? Disturbingly, no one actually knows." (Italics mine.) More:

Ten billion dollars — for a bus station. And if other projects are any guide, this price tag for a Port Authority Bus Terminal replacement is only going up from there.

That's after we've committed: $4.2 billion at the PATH World Trade Center station; $1.4 billion for the Fulton St. subway station; $11 billion for the East Side Access project; $4.5 billion for just two miles of the Second Ave. Subway, and $2.3 billion for a single station extension of the 7-train.

Last month, Reason's Jim Epstein wrote about New York's $4 billion train station." In 2012, Epstein and Kennedy asked "When Did Honoring the Dead Become an Occassion for Fleecing the Living?"