The New York Times this week has now produced two superb columns about infrastructure. The cancellation (maybe not) of the NY/NJ tunnel by Gov. Christie has ignited some interest in an overdue and necessary national conversation. At least I hope it has. Our neglect of infrastructure over the past 30 years is a sin against our future.
By the way, have I mentioned that I think Herbert’s just getting better and better? He is.
His column is just full of plain language and simple realities. It’s so good, I’m pasting most of it here to increase the chance you’ll read it.
We can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threaten to blow Iran off the face of the planet. We can conduct a nonstop campaign of drone and helicopter attacks in Pakistan and run a network of secret prisons around the world. We are the mightiest nation mankind has ever seen.
But we can’t seem to build a railroad tunnel to carry commuters between New Jersey and New York.
The railroad tunnel was the kind of infrastructure project that used to get done in the United States almost as a matter of routine. It was a big and expensive project, but the payoff would have been huge. It would have reduced congestion and pollution in the New York-New Jersey corridor. It would have generated economic activity and put thousands of people to work. It would have enabled twice as many passengers to ride the trains on that heavily traveled route between the two states.
The project had been in the works for 20 years, and ground had already been broken . . . This is a railroad tunnel we’re talking about. We’re not trying to go to the Moon. This is not the Manhattan Project. It’s a railroad tunnel that’s needed to take people back and forth to work and to ease the pressure on the existing tunnel, a wilting two-track facility that’s about 100 years old. What is the matter with us?
The railroad tunnel project, all set and ready to go, would have provided jobs for 6,000 construction workers, not to mention all the residual employment that accompanies such projects . . .
There have been many times when the U.S. has stunned the world with the breadth and greatness of its achievements — the Marshall Plan, the G.I. Bill, the world’s highest standard of living, the world’s finest higher education system, the space program, and on and on.
Somewhere, somehow, things went haywire. The nation that built the Erie Canal and Hoover Dam and the transcontinental railroad can’t even build a tunnel beneath the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York.