Sunday, January 04, 2009

Obama's Infrastructure Impact

As an infrastructure design engineer, my coworkers and I have been watching with great interest the plans President Elect Obama has been working on for an economic stimulus package that will include vast infrastructure spending. While a bill such as this would obviously be good for business, I'm more excited for it on the results side. I truly think that investments in well designed infrastructure are vital components in building our future. These are the sort of physical investments that not only add character to communities, but add livability.

As Obama has prepared to take office, it has become clear that investment in cities will be a tangible aspect of his policy. Several of his Cabinet selections are, I think, good selections from this point of view. Considering he's from here and adding on the possibility of the Olympics, I'm very excited about the possible future investments Chicago is going to see. Certainly there is an aspect of that excitement that is very self-interested, but I think this investment will prove to be valuable to all residents. And similar investments across the country will likewise prove very worthwhile, in my opinion.


Carl Petersen said...

Here's a Letter-to-the-Editor viewpoint I read in the WSJ this weekend:


Regarding Clifford Winston's " 'Stimulus' Doesn't Have to Mean Pork" (op-ed, Dec. 29): As a registered civil engineer with nearly 50 years of experience with government in California, I can attest to the fact that few if any significant projects can be built under President-elect Barack Obama's proposal. The road to success will be blocked by political fighting, bureaucracy, and government regulations. A "ready" project is far from a reality. That is before a project can actually be advertised for construction.

There are not enough design engineers and contractors to begin the process and build major infrastructure projects in many cities simultaneously. The projects that are built will then have to deal with the unions and other self-interest groups. Imagine trying to build something in New York City and having to deal with the myriad obstacles. It is fortunate that the National Interstate Highway system was undertaken in the late 1950s. If started today, the program would never be completed due to the regulatory constraints on construction.

As a result we shall see many dog parks, sidewalks, traffic signals and city hall landscaping endeavors, but few of any significance for the billions of dollars that will be spent.

Noel Christensen, P.E.
Loma Linda, Calif.


Westy said...

Hmmm, sounds a little disenchanted. Interesting.

I guess I can only speak for here. But I would say there are several large projects that can happen soon if only they were funded in Chicago (Circle Line?). Is every layer of bureaucracy along the way necessary? Probably not, but they would get done. Are some of these projects "shovel-ready"? No. But that makes sense as why would you take design plans to completion if you previously did not have money for construction?

I'm optimistic the bill could do a lot of good if done right. But I'd agree we need to be careful not to only spend it on small-scale items.