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After graduating from high school in 1983, I took a weeklong vacation to Cape Cod with my friends. On the ride home, I drove over the Mianus River Bridge in Connecticut. Shortly after that, the bridge collapsed.
Now, when I say “shortly”, I mean about four or five hours later. I was driving southbound. It was the northbound span that gave way. So maybe this wasn’t such a close call. But bridges should not fall apart beneath you. I get that. I understand the importance of infrastructure spending.
What I also get is that both the federal and state governments collect taxes on every gallon of gas sold. I get that there are toll roads and bridges. I get that a near-trillion dollar stimulus package was passed in 2009.
So when I hear politicians crying about our “crumbling infrastructure,” I get that what they really want is more taxes to spend. Maintaining roads and bridges is very important. I just don’t trust the government to do the most effective job of spending that money.
I still go to Cape Cod every year. When you stand on the outer beach, you can, as Thoreau said, put all of America behind you (although the seals are becoming a bit of a nuisance). This year, I got to see a small example of a government road project there.
The intersection of routes 28 and 6A used to look like this:
If you were going straight on either road, you had your own lane, but if you wanted to turn left, you had to make a left turn. That seemed fine to me and to most of the locals I spoke to.
But since the state was willing to fund it, the intersection was transformed into this:
Now everyone gets to yield and follow the zig-zagging arrows. It’s easier to go left now, but harder to go straight (I think in this part of the country left is more desired than straight anyhow). The number of accidents, I’ve been told, has remained about the same. But since everyone is so confused from trying to follow the squiggly lines, the cars involved in the accidents are going much slower than before.
Knowing that, one could claim this a worthwhile project, but was it worth the seven-digit price tag? I am not asking that rhetorically. I honestly have no idea what something like this would cost in the private sector.
From the picture, you can see that there’s too much curbing. That’s really my biggest problem with this project. I had the pleasure of meeting a local fireman this summer; he told me was that because of the project’s design, they can’t get their trucks through that intersection. Fire trucks have to take a detour. Everyone else has to drive really slowly and in a serpentine path, and taxpayers get to spend over $1,300,000. This just one small example out of thousands.
So tell me: How exactly will new taxes will fix our crumbling infrastructure?