Friday, January 16, 2009

MFX III: Revenge of the Sh*t

Not this crap again:

Three private consortiums have expressed interest in building one section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and two segments of the Southern Beltway that state officials don't have the money to complete.

One construction team is composed of local firms, including PNC Capital Markets and Wilbur Smith Associates, while the other two include Spanish and American companies.

All three groups include firms with expertise in financing, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining the new roads, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman Carl Defebo said yesterday.
Great, just great. Here we are combining this crap taco of a public policy initiative with the raging success of privatization. I can only expect the best out of all this for the Commonwealth.

Now, two points:

First, with all the talk of infrastructure improvement in the upcoming administration, the MFX has started to scare me once again. Unfortunately, compared to a whole bunch of other better projects, the MFX is pretty much ready to go... despite the whole detail of not having all the property assembled and the minor point of the friggin' thing costing billions and billions of dollars with only a small amount of benefits to a relatively small group of citizens in the East and South. I would hope, *HOPE*, that this kind of new project gets passed over for funding in favor of, you know, repairing the crap that we already have.

Second, with the crash of the housing market, I question the demand for opening up vast tracts of land in Fayette County to urban sprawl. While at some point (hopefully) the region will start growing with gusto again, it will probably not be any time soon and probably not in the exurbs.

Indeed, the draft stimulus bill seems to start a move away from highways and towards mass transit, which signals to me that there's going to be a more urban bent to the next few years. Fester has a bit of an analysis on this point:
Three quarters of that [draft stimulus bill] money is dedicated to highway construction and maintenance while a quarter is allocated to mass transit, including a the possibility of SUPERTRAINS. I would prefer a 50:50 split or an inversion of the ratio, as my consumer surplus is much higher with mass transit, and I think the societal surplus is higher as well.

However, a 3:1 highway to mass transit split is a dramatic improvement from typical federal funding ratios. The last major transportation law funded highways at roughly 5:1 over all other alternative modes of transit. A good chunk of this ratio is purely political. The law was written when the majority party's base and swing lives in the suburbs and exurbs. Mass transit makes far less sense in low density areas, and when the votes are lined up, the marginal decision will be supporting the majority's preferences. Furthermore, there is some serious interest group bundling aimed at political capture. Developers, construction firms, some unions push hard for a form of construction that they understand and can exploit for their own interests. Again, this is just politics.
And, of course, politics is what the MFX is all about, really.

That, and civil engineering fuckwittery.


n'at said...

Hey, civies need to eat too! However, twenty-six miles of right-of-way cut through a dense thicket of blue dog, gubmint-fearing, irish catholic-hating, ayrn drinking, coal patch living, native born yinzers? No friggin way.

Hazelwood better get their act together, or their recommendation for a cut and cover, sight unseen, expressway tunnel will be shot down faster than a Cheney confidant on a duck hunt, especially with what secrets may lie in the soil. 150 years of heavy industry doesn't leach rose petals and lilac essence into the ground - ask the Pittsburgh Technology Center...

Sherry Pasquarello said...

"fuckwittery" i like the term!