Thursday, March 10, 2016

The New Deal: 215,000 Bridge Projects

(This bridge in West Virginia, connecting the towns of Nitro and St. Albans, was constructed in 1934 with funds from the Public Works Administration. It was replaced in 2013, after serving the public for over three-quarters of a century. Photo from a PWA report.)

During the New Deal, massive investments were made in America's infrastructure. Today, of course, the story is quite different - perpetual war and tax-breaks-for-the-wealthy have been deemed more important. But let's take a look at bridge projects during the New Deal - projects that consisted of new constructions, repairs, and improvements on vehicle bridges, foot bridges, viaducts, etc. 

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): 57,424

Public Works Administration (PWA): 388

Civil Works Administration (CWA): 7,000

Work Division of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA): 16,590

Works Progress Administration (WPA): 124,011

National Youth Administration (NYA): 9,973

Total Bridge Projects: 215,386

Some of these projects might be counted twice because, for example, a bridge re-decking project started by FERA could have been completed by the WPA. On the other hand, I don't have complete statistics for other agencies, like the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, and the final reports for the agencies listed above are not always 100% complete; so, I'm sticking by the 215,000 number. (To see sources for the statistics above, see my blog post here.)

      (This is usually how we do bridges today. To protect billionaires from higher tax rates, we just patch them. And then, a year or two later, we'll put more patches on top of the existing patches. Eventually, the structure looks more like a quilt than a bridge. Photo by Brent McKee.)

In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers noted: "Approximately 210 million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions." 

Do you think New Deal-style investment could reduce that number? Do you think that fixing bridges is more important than super-wealthy Americans having more money to buy private islands and private compounds to distance themselves from us? I do, but I might be in the minority.

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