Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On the Prospect of Federal Infrastructure Funding

The Observer has a good piece today on state and local officials seeking out federal infrastructure funds.
City and state officials are positioning themselves to garner funding from any new federal stimulus package for various transportation and infrastructure projects. Most of the projects are smaller-scale and nearly ready to start development.

Longtime readers know that I am a believer in federal funding for transit, sewer, energy and communications infrastructure, especially in tough times. As we stand at the edge of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we need sensible infrastructure spending to provide jobs and set the conditions for our next generation of growth.

One of the lasting lessons I took away from "The Power Broker", Robert Caro's fantastic biography of Bob Moses, was that those who were ready with plans for their dream projects were the first in line for funding when stimulus was available. Bob Moses secured a fortune for New York public works from the WPA and related agencies, and we are still enjoying the fruits of those investments today. It happens that Moses's vision for what to do with that money was disastrously flawed, but there can be no question that he was effective in getting things built.

New York needs leadership that will seize the opportunity in this crisis to make our city better and more sustainable, to preserve New York's preeminent stature as a world class city. But now is not the time for small thinking. It is a time for bold initiative. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity here to dramatically improve our city. Let's aim high.

Our city and state leadership must avoid the trap of thinking small and focusing only on quick fixes. We could: Extend the Second Avenue Subway. Connect La Guardia to the rail transit system. Connect Penn Station to Grand Central. Build the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel. Bury the Gowanus Expressway, with dedicated transit facilities. Fix our outdated combined sewer systems. Turn Third Avenue into a green oasis. Build the Vision 42 light rail connector in mid-town. Create true high-speed intercity rail. Regionalize our subway system and commuter lines.

You can get a flavor for what I would do with the money here, here and here.

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