I just skimmed through this piece of opinion excellence at the StarLedger.

Bob Braun thinks we should go ahead with the Hudson River Tunnel even though we probably won’t need it and can’t afford it,  because if we don’t it will make our grandkids think we’re over-regulated wussies or something (Er, Bob, we ARE over-regulated wussies).

Most disturbing about the sinking of the ARC is its symbolic reversal of faith in progress. At one time, politicians of all ideologies recognized building and maintaining infrastructure was essential to continued growth. Now many conservatives cannot see beyond the demand for another tax cut. The tea party ideology warns of future deficits but ignores the real threat of the disintegration of public works.

Writer Joe Conason used a phrase to describe this shortsightedness. He said we have become “a generation of termites” that will leave to our grandchildren maybe a smaller deficit, but also a nation crumbling from within because we are so afraid to spend money.

Bob. Bob. Bob. We used to have faith in progress…but that was before anything we wanted to slap up required who knows how many studies to discern any environmental impact on earthworm habitats, destruction of rat tunnels and the harm caused to the local schist. Progress today is destroyed by making sure even the gnats are undisturbed, every local crank and loon is heard in scads of town hall meetings and requiring even the catering trucks have ludicrous amounts of flood insurance. Then consider the corruption and incompetence of managing a big project (See Dig, Big of Boston, MA).

And it’s worse when it isn’t even that great an idea.

Gee Bob, let’s consider a few things before we spend what will likely cost $30 billion more than budgeted by the time we’re done:

* With VPNs and Skype, the need to work next to one another is less. Ride the PATH to NYC on a Friday morning…no problem getting a seat…why? Because as casual Fridays are now the norm all week, so will working from home or from a local office become more of a norm. Think about 10 years ago, it was rare that companies even had casual Fridays…Think of what video conferencing and WebEx is now…imagine how that will be in 10 years.  People will work more locally and will connect in larger groups periodically for meetings. It’s already starting to happen. Why lose 2 and a half hours commuting when you can get the same work done in your den? And do we really think that NYC will have that many more jobs and workers in 10 years…as more and more office buildings become residential condos? With fewer workers to transport…big new tunnels are not so important, are they?

* NJ road maintenance is now worse then Pennsylvania’s…which takes doing. Don’t believe me? Take a spin, Bob, on North Avenue from Centennial Ave to the Garden State Parkway North on-ramp. Make sure you have a cup of piping hot coffee in your lap and hug the left side of the turn lane! If we can’t even passably maintain our current roads…

* NJ Transit operates like a third-world railway. Maybe they could use some of them computer thingys and be able to increase throughput in the tunnel they have, or maybe find a way to avoid having a train break down inside a tube at 7:30 am once a week. (Or the derailment like the one on 10/25/10) They don’t deserve a first-world tunnel. They could make serious service improvements simply by being less boneheaded.

* If you want to impress the grandkids, build the Somerset Freeway.

There are other things to consider before plunking down a ton of cash (with NY’s contribution being $0 no less) and building  something that may not be needed in the end. NJ will be stuck holding the bag for ALL of the cost overruns. The probability of major cost overruns is close to 100%.

Much as I would love a 1 seat trip to NY Penn as the trip to Newark is too short to get a good nap…and the countless times you pull in and see your connection going out…the tunnel could improve that situation (but it’s not certain that it would).

But I can’t get on board with a new tunnel. Not with NJ having uncapped cost liability.

See, Bob, conservatives aren’t termites. Infrastructure projects are one of the few things besides military that they LOVE spending money on. Because people actually derive benefit from them.

The termites are those that are the non-monetary barriers to progress, the regulators, the environmentalists, the overly-empowered NIMBYS, the corrupt politicians who ensure their pals get rich, the unions with their workrules, and a government who takes no responsibility to manage a project properly.

And annoying columnists who consider a column researched by talking to one guy, hate the governor and write pedestrian columns that poorly sell a pretty poor idea.

Advertisements