Infrastructure

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Eric the .5b
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Eric the .5b »

I am curious about the difference between infrastructure in the US and other modern, developed, and urbanized countries.

Comparing with the Erie Canal is kinda hilarious. "Why was it cheaper to dig through some farms and forests than to build a big project through urban areas?"
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Warren
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Warren »

Mo wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 18:42 The problem is that infrastructure in the US costs at least 3x-20x of what it costs to build in other industrialized countries. The 2nd Avenue line is 10x more expensive than the German equivalent and 20x more than the Italian ones
Because?
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Jadagul
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jadagul »

Warren wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 19:36
Mo wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 18:42 The problem is that infrastructure in the US costs at least 3x-20x of what it costs to build in other industrialized countries. The 2nd Avenue line is 10x more expensive than the German equivalent and 20x more than the Italian ones
Because?
Best piece I know of is this one: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/ ... us/551408/

E.g. France has done some light rail down to about $40m per mile; $100m seems to be about an upper bound. Almost the cheapest in the US are more expensive than that.

One contributing factor, as Highway (semi) observes, is that in Europe they're far more willing to bite the bullet and have large disruptions for short periods. (Cut-and-cover versus tunnel drilling, shutting down rail lines temporarily versus not.) Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures. Another is that we mostly don't learn from projects in other countries because we widely consider them incomparable.

Another is federalism: the number of different bodies that need to sign off on a project is large, and that means that planning takes longer and also there are more points at which projects have to be altered to be less effective but please one special interest or another.
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thoreau
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by thoreau »

Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:00 Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures.
This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
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Jadagul
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Re: Infrastructure

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thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:00 Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures.
This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
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Mo
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 23:56
thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:00 Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures.
This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
How can we be more corrupt than Italy?
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Jadagul
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Jadagul »

Hm, so I grabbed some actual numbers and it depends on which numbers you go with.

According to these numbers on trust, we do pretty well: https://ourworldindata.org/trust Several countries beat us, but we're ahead of most of Western Europe if I'm reading the chart correctly.

On the other hand, we're doing a bit less well if you look at the Corruption Perceptions Index: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruptio ... ions_Index We come in 23rd in the world, tied with France and behind Germany, the UK, I think all the Nordics, Australia, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, and some others, but still ahead of Spain and Portugal and well ahead of Italy.
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Warren
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Warren »

Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 03:00
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 23:56
thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:00 Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures.
This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
How can we be more corrupt than Italy?
We can't. Jadagul gonna Jadagul.
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Mo
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

Warren wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:01
Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 03:00
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 23:56
thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:00 Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures.
This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
How can we be more corrupt than Italy?
We can't. Jadagul gonna Jadagul.
I mean it's possible for most of the other countries that's the case and for Italy, there's only one layer of corruption at the federal level, where in the US it would be at 3+ levels (municipal, state, feds)
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Warren
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Warren »

Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:06
Warren wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:01
Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 03:00
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 23:56
thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:00 Another is that America has more issues with corruption than most of Western Europe and thus we lose money both to corruption and to clunky anti-corruption measures.
This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
How can we be more corrupt than Italy?
We can't. Jadagul gonna Jadagul.
I mean it's possible for most of the other countries that's the case and for Italy, there's only one layer of corruption at the federal level, where in the US it would be at 3+ levels (municipal, state, feds)
You're the one that said our infrastructure costs are multiples of other countries. Where do you get that from? Is there no cause cited?
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Hugh Akston »

Warren wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:21
Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:06
Warren wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:01
Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 03:00
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 23:56
thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58

This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
How can we be more corrupt than Italy?
We can't. Jadagul gonna Jadagul.
I mean it's possible for most of the other countries that's the case and for Italy, there's only one layer of corruption at the federal level, where in the US it would be at 3+ levels (municipal, state, feds)
You're the one that said our infrastructure costs are multiples of other countries. Where do you get that from? Is there no cause cited?
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Mo
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

Warren wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:21
Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:06
Warren wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 09:01
Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 03:00
Jadagul wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 23:56
thoreau wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 20:58

This is weird because we are a very high trust society in many ways.
We're high-trust in the grand scheme of things but not relative to other rich/First World countries.
How can we be more corrupt than Italy?
We can't. Jadagul gonna Jadagul.
I mean it's possible for most of the other countries that's the case and for Italy, there's only one layer of corruption at the federal level, where in the US it would be at 3+ levels (municipal, state, feds)
You're the one that said our infrastructure costs are multiples of other countries. Where do you get that from? Is there no cause cited?
Corruption, by its very nature, is almost impossible to suss out. Like are higher contractor or labor costs due to something in the market or is it due to graft. You can probably estimate some of it, but you’ll never know for certain.

https://www.marketplace.org/2019/04/11/ ... omparison/
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lunchstealer
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by lunchstealer »

Highway wrote: 28 Jan 2020, 14:51 But there already is high bandwidth internet available everywhere. Satellite internet is fine for high bandwidth and access. It's not so great for low latency applications, but if we're talking about what should be required, is gaming part of that list? Is VoIP? Or is it having access to commerce and opportunity?

I don't see much value in an effort to run cable or fiber to all the people in the US. It would be much easier and cheaper to just pay for people to use satellite.
Well for telecommuters VOIP/Videoconference/remote-desktop type applications are probably pretty necessary. When looking to buy a house recently, that's been a critical consideration. I can't make do with satellite internet. I don't do much online gaming anymore but I do a lot of remote desktop and a lot of webex.
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Mo
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

While this is not always going to be the case, doesn’t satellite also have pretty limited total bandwidth during peak hours?
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JasonL
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by JasonL »

I do think there's something almost unique among high trust societies in the US citizen to government relationship. We have low confidence in government execution of good works. At first blush this may be the right shift of our Overton window ideologically, but I don't think it's that on the ground (i don't think most people are ideological). Liberals for example have low trust in things like urban renewal or development that may disrupt local communities. Conservatives have low trust in union deals and Chicago politics and such. Liberals have high trust in Federal level but low trust in states - if something is "left to the states" they infer "is completely absent". Zoning fights are fights that engender low trust in policymakers. Education is political and engenders low trust.

We don't agree on all that much and to the extent a big project is "good for everyone" nobody (relative to like Sweden) believes that claim, even if they believed it would be executed efficiently and with limited corruption, which we don't believe that either.
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Hugh Akston »

Trust in government was high during the Eisenhower epoch, when a lot of big infrastructure projects were going down. But it cratered during Vietnam and never really recovered. I don't think I can name a big public works project that happened in the 70s or 80s, except for the moon landing.
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JasonL
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by JasonL »

Hmm. The trend line by party during Obama is interesting. The First Black President didn't ... create a lot of confidence in his own party.
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

One reason why liberals, and specifically AfAms, have high confidence in the Feds is that, historically, the Feds enforced the CRA and killed a lot of racist local laws. And as the Feds have taken the foot of the gas post-Shelby, states are back to trying to reduce minority voting power.
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by thoreau »

Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 17:47 One reason why liberals, and specifically AfAms, have high confidence in the Feds is that, historically, the Feds enforced the CRA and killed a lot of racist local laws. And as the Feds have taken the foot of the gas post-Shelby, states are back to trying to reduce minority voting power.
This.
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Painboy »

I'm curious when comparing infrastructure (and possibly corruption) between US and European countries it might be more comparable to compare the EU and the US. Although I don't know if there are projects like that for the EU but that would at least be more representative of the scale of the US, as well as the additional layer of federal government on top of the state governments the US deals with.
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

There are no EU projects. At most they tend to be bi/multi lateral agreements. Even when it comes to things like regulation, the EU provides a framework, but each country does their own way within the confines of the framework. I’m intimately aware of this as it relates to payment regs.
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Eric the .5b
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Eric the .5b »

Mo wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 18:04There are no EU projects. At most they tend to be bi/multi lateral agreements. Even when it comes to things like regulation, the EU provides a framework, but each country does their own way within the confines of the framework. I’m intimately aware of this as it relates to payment regs.
Which is a thing for national-scale projects like Warren's one-handed high-speed rail fantasy. "Oh, why would it be easier for Germany to build a passenger rail system when they have eighty million people in a space smaller than Montana?"

It should be less of a concern for smaller-scale stuff, except that all levels of government tend to get involved in these operations...and I don't see any way around that. Even a unitary government is going to have subdivisions and oversight needs when you've got hundreds of millions of people. Unless the central government decides not to care about things like environmental impact when it comes to state and local constructions (and it won't decide that), it's going to be involved.

Of course, a big thing there is that most of the government money spent in the US is by the feds—more than all state and local spending combined in recent decades. Over in Europe, EU spending is only about 2% of total member nation spending.

So, there's a combination of multiple levels of government involved and the Feds having most of the resources, in money, authority, and the meta-infrastructure of agencies, making it hard to get anything big done at the state level. (Try halving the budgets of EU member nations and see how well they can maintain those trains, welfare states, etc...)
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Mo
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Mo »

France has about the same population density as Florida.\
Eric the .5b wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 18:47 Unless the central government decides not to care about things like environmental impact when it comes to state and local constructions (and it won't decide that), it's going to be involved.
Do you need multiple levels of environmental impact? Part of the issue is that you have municipal, state and federal environmental impact, which takes a lot of time and money and way more veto points. Seems like it would be better to have one governing set of rules.
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Highway »

Speaking of transportation projects, and the fact that the US Gov. is the ones with the deep projects, that might be one reason that big transportation projects don't happen. Since the states have to convince the feds to give them a pile of money for transportation projects, that would cut down on the chances of a state actually doing a transportation project that the USG isn't supportive of. That chops out a lot of innovative things, because the Feds are inherently conservative about projects, and set a relatively high bar for approving the money (and then for actually getting the money). Meanwhile the Feds have piles of money tasked for, honestly, garbage projects, like the Appalachian Development Highway System, where the people who are there don't want more people there.

(https://www.roadsbridges. com/nepa-approval-gets-us-219-link-underway-maryland) (link broken because I'm involved in the project)

On the subject of "US projects cost more than projects other places", I would be interested to see a breakdown in how much higher the costs are for components. Because the cost of every part of every project I work on is tracked, at least in a relatively fine manner. What are the items that cost more? Is it materials? Installation? Labor rates? Design? Environmental clearances? Land acquisition? Is it things like reinventing the wheel (or the subway) every single time, because no city will use the same cars as another city? Is it that US projects like to include some special segment that is spectacularly expensive, compared to the rest?

For instance, one of the roads I worked on was originally part of the DC "outer beltway" concept. So for decades, they told developers in the counties that they had to keep an alignment free from development because sometime they might build this thing. So the developers, being not idiots, dedicated the shitty unbuildable land for the roadway segment. Therefore when they finally got around to building this road, the alignment that was available was over sensitive streams, through wetlands, and not at all straight. That project cost about 2.5 billion dollars for an 18.something mile road. But it was something like 16 miles of road for 400 million (for a fairly reasonable 25 million per mile) and 2 billion dollars for 2 miles of bridges. That includes design, construction, and stormwater management, which was also relatively expensive, because of the sensitive nature of the receiving streams.
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Hugh Akston
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Re: Infrastructure

Post by Hugh Akston »

Highway wrote: 29 Jan 2020, 19:24 On the subject of "US projects cost more than projects other places", I would be interested to see a breakdown in how much higher the costs are for components. Because the cost of every part of every project I work on is tracked, at least in a relatively fine manner. What are the items that cost more? Is it materials? Installation? Labor rates? Design? Environmental clearances? Land acquisition? Is it things like reinventing the wheel (or the subway) every single time, because no city will use the same cars as another city? Is it that US projects like to include some special segment that is spectacularly expensive, compared to the rest?
The article I linked to above links to studies, which include the data.
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