Sunday, November 16, 2014
20 years to fix a pothole in Macedonia, Ohio? A new WPA could do it right now.
(A WPA road improvement project in Kent County, Maryland, 1936. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland College Park Archives.)
When a man in Macedonia, Ohio, showed pictures of a crumbling road to his city council recently, the response he received didn't exactly inspire him. He heard about a road maintenance schedule and said, "I know about this so-called road schedule. Does that mean that we're never going to fix potholes on Ledge Road until 20 years from now when Ledge Road comes up...You've got to do preventative maintenance."
The road problems in Macedonia, Ohio, are not unique to that area. For example, in 2013 the America Society of Civil Engineers reported that "32% of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing U.S. motorists who are traveling on deficient pavement $67 billion a year, or $324 per motorist, in additional repairs and operating costs...The ultimate cost of poor road conditions is significantly more over time than the cost to maintain those same roads in good condition. For example, after 25 years the cost per lane mile for reconstruction can be more than three times the cost of preservation treatments over the same time period, which can lead to a longer overall life span for the infrastructure."
During the 1930s and early 1940s, New Deal policymakers made monumental investments in our nation's arteries. The WPA, for example, created or improved 650,000 miles of roads, streets, and highways--enough roadwork to go around the planet 26 times. And these roads served as a foundation for our post-World War II economic expansion.
We could do the same today if we weren't locking our doors and hiding under our beds at night, in fear of the socialism bogeyman--and also if we weren't afraid of raising taxes on the "job creators" who, by the way, are doing a crappy job of creating good middle-class jobs (see, e.g., "Wages and Salaries Still Lag as Corporate Profits Surge," "Corporations Pay Historically Low Tax Rates While Lobbying To Make Them Even Lower," and "Banks Make a Billion Dollars A Year Helping Rich Shareholders Avoid Taxes").
Our roads, and our vehicles, need a new WPA.