Sunday, August 29, 2010

An Emphasis on Infrastructure

The New York Times Magazine ran a report on the precarious status of infrastructure throughout the country and the troublesome and overextended and overtaxed systems that are on the verge of failure.

There are tens of billions of dollars that are needed to rebuild and renovate these systems, which include everything from levees and dams to power systems. One would have thought that the stimulus package (ARRA of 2009) enacted last year would have started bringing improvements to vital systems.

You would have thought wrong.

You would have thought that things like overhauling and replacing antiquated rail signal systems such as those on the LIRR would have been done years ago.

You thought wrong - although the plan to replace the system is underway and seriously over budget and late.
The state has "invested" many billions of dollars in LIRR facilities, including a current project to send some Long Island trains into Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan's other huge railroad station. Though its budget is $7.3 billion, federal transportation estimators say it's running $800 million over budget and 18 months behind schedule.

As for last week's service disruption, a computerized train control system is scheduled to go into service at Jamaica in November—three years late and more than 200% over budget.

Under state ownership, the Long Island Rail Road has survived, but never prospered. Fares are higher than most riders like, but lower than necessary to run the railroad.

Nobody expects the LIRR to make a profit; the riders shout that would be unfair. Why the current subsidies are not unfair to taxpayers, especially the million Long Islanders commuting in cars, is never explained.

Signal and power problems are an all too common occurrence on the Northeast Corridor, and the failure to address and update these systems means that the chances for further problems are far too high.

All of these issues go to competitive advantage and improving the business climate. Yet, while politicians and the public entities running the mass transit and infrastructure love to tout new construction, it's the existing infrastructure that needs to be addressed with updates, upgrades, and replacements where necessary.

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