Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rebuilding Chicago

Infrastructure renewal, Chicago. Picture: City of Chicago.
I wrote this week in The Economist about the new Chicago Infrastructure Trust--the piece was co-authored with Ryan Avent in Washington.

I have also blogged recently about Chicago's obvious need for a great deal of infrastructure investment



A question of trust 

Chicago pioneers a new way of paying for infrastructure

May 12th 2012 | CHICAGO AND WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition

FOR decades America has underinvested in infrastructure—even though poor roads, delayed flights, crumbling bridges and inefficient buildings are an expensive burden. Deficiencies in roads, bridges and transport systems alone cost households and businesses nearly $130 billion in 2010, mostly because of higher running costs and travel delays. The calculated underinvestment in transport infrastructure alone runs to about $94 billion a year. This filters through to all parts of the economy and increases costs at the point of use of many raw materials, and thereby reduces the productivity and competitiveness of American firms and their goods. Overall the American Society of Civil Engineers reckons that this underinvestment will end up costing each family in the country about $10,600 between 2010 and 2020.

Yet though investment in infrastructure would bring clear gains in efficiency, there is little money around, and all levels of government are reluctant or unable to pile up more debt. Traditional sources of funding, such as the (flat) tax on petrol, have delivered a dwindling amount of revenue as soaring prices at the pump have persuaded people to drive less. The federal government has been unable to get Congress to agree on other ways to generate new sources of funding for transport, to the point where money for new highways has almost dried up. [More...]