America’s Infrastructure Bubble Is Going Pop

As Joe Biden visited Pittsburg to talk about infrastructure, that infrastructure spoke for itself. It fell the fuck down.

This was not some isolated problem. Just look at the bridges of Allegheny County. Shit’s looking as old as Clint Eastwood.

Now look at… America.Americans think they’re developed, but most Americans don’t even have a passport.For anyone flyingintoAmerica, it’s shocking.

India has better airports, Laos has infinitely more high-speed rail (America has zero), Sri Lanka has better cell phone service, and almost everyone can clear a cheque faster.

America had infrastructure once, but now it just has a bunch of unfunded liabilities.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated the cost for major maintenance at $5 trillion (in 2009). Since then, however, the bubble has only gotten worse. “Between 2009 and 2017, the nation built enough new lane miles to criss-cross the width of the U.S. 83 times, new roads that require $5 billion a year extra to keep in good condition.”

The problem is that no elected official gives a shit about keeping roads in good condition, when they could be cutting ribbons on new roads for re-election.

States simply neglect basic repair in favor of expanding roadways. Despite long-standing complaints about potholes, crumbling roads, and unfixed highways, they spent as much building new roads as repairing new ones, spending $120 billion on expansion from 2009 to 2014.

These new roads lead to more induced demand, meaning more traffic, more sprawling housing projects, all inflating the asphalt bubble further and further. The whole post-World War II suburban experiment has just been a big Ponzi scheme, creating long-term liabilities, not assets.

As Charles Marohn said:

Most American cities find themselves caught in the Growth Ponzi Scheme. We experience a modest, short-term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long-term liabilities. We deprive our communities of prosperity, overload our families with debt, and become trapped in a spiral of decline.

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