Some perspective

On Wednesday, President Obama signed a bill authorizing the construction of a new Stillwater Bridge, a $690 million project that will serve possibly 18,000 car trips per day.  Here are some other transportation segments that serve at least 18,000 trips per day.

To name just a few.  Some of these facilities may currently have adequate capacity, but I’m sure quite a few are in a state of deferred maintenance (potholes, surfacing) or could use significantly better infrastructure (bus signs, shelters, pedestrian facilities, intersection redesign, etc) to serve existing users.  I assume that if any of these segments need improvement, we’ll see bipartisan support and state and federal funding up to $690 million per.

(A special runner-up goes to the SE Washington Ave Bridge, which in 2011 saw an estimated 6,850 bicycle trips per day.  That’s only about 38% of 18,000, so $262 million for bike improvements on this span should suffice.)

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6 Responses to Some perspective

  1. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg March 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    I'd say "bridge to nowhere," but Wisconsin is a lovely place. But yes, perhaps spending $690 million on a bridge to a county with just 84,000 people is a bit excessive. Very disappointing decision.

  2. Nathaniel M Hood
    Nathaniel March 16, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    I think that we have an unhealthy obsession with "mega projects". It goes beyond economic reasoning. We do it because we can. Unfortunately this attitude turns out to be a large drain on limited resources with a poor ROI. Money could be better spent on existing infrastructure (such as the projects listed above), or simply not spent at all.

    Brendon- you gotta run for House or Senate and get this thing stopped. You've got my support!

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke March 16, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    My $262 million plan for Washington Avenue bridge bike plan involves a zipline & mag-lev bike rack.

  4. Stephen Gross March 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Actually, there's an interesting area here for investigation. Why is it that the *bigger* a project is, the *less* it is subject to scrutiny? (Exhibit A: Vikings Stadium!) Does anyone have any expertise in marketing psychology who could explain this?

    • Nathaniel M Hood
      Nathaniel March 20, 2012 at 5:32 am #

      Stephen –

      Good question. What is the psychology here? I'm not totally sure. I'm interested to see how these debates play out in Europe, Canada, South America, Australia? Or do they not play out at all?

      I know in Australia, the State governments are usually responsible for the funding of (nearly) all mega-projects. Meaning – they typically are more conservative and do a bit more due diligence on the finances/benefits. That's not to say they don't still make mistakes.

      Re: St. Croix Bridge – my thoughts are that a project like this elsewhere in the world would be a public-private partnership / toll-bridge / shadow tolling system. Of course, on that note, if it were elsewhere it'd probably include a rail line or bus lane.

      I look at it this way – if we were to divert money spent on the St. Croix Bridge & the Minnesota Vikings stadium – we could probably get 1.5 to 2 light rail lines out of it. Public transit, at least in the American psyche, registers lower than that of cars and football.

  5. Froggie March 20, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    Given what this'll do to St Croix County, I'd have gone with 40,000. You can start the comparison with Hwy 36. Or the Hi-Freq routes for Metro Transit (which I think is more than 40K).

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